The small SUV segment may be booming in Australia, but one potential newcomer – the Ssangyong Tivoli – might not make its way here to be a part of it.
The Ssangyong Tivoli slots in below the Korando in the South Korean brand’s product portfolio, playing in a segment where the likes of the Honda HR-V, Mazda CX-3 and Holden Trax have risen to prominence.
Indeed, according to VFACTS registrations figures from the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, the small SUV segment is up 24.4 per cent on the back of those new arrivals and a seemingly unrelenting desire from Australian buyers to get into a high-riding hatchback.
But Ateco Automotive spokesman Daniel Cotterill said that while the brand – like any – wants to grow its sales, there might not be enough room for the Tivoli in the local market.
"The Tivoli is out there, and that’s not a certainty for this country yet,” he said.
“We’ve had a couple here – a lot of the hot weather testing was done here,” Cotterill explained, referring to the spy pictures we posted earlier in 2015.
He then went on to state that although Australia was important in the development of the car, there’s no point bringing a car to market that may not sell in significant numbers.
“To be competitive, as good as vehicle as it is, unless it stacks up commercially, there’s no point.
“Tivoli is small, but it’s feature-packed. In terms of its specification and its capabilities, I think it could be quite competitive in its segment.
“But from our experience, unless you can make it work commercially – in other words, have it priced so that it stands a good chance of selling suitable numbers whilst allowing margin for both the dealer and for us – if you can’t do that, then why do it?"
Cotterill said there’s still a chance the new model would be sold here, but suggested there’s a bit more work going on behind the scenes with the Ssangyong brand.
“Ssangyong is a little bit of a conundrum, to be frank,” he said.
“The cars are very good, the prices are reasonably competitive, I think. It just doesn’t seem to sell as well as it should.
“That’s not for want of trying on our behalf, or on behalf of the dealer network. It’s a question that occupies our minds collectively quite often.
“If you’ve got any suggestions, we’d be happy to hear them,” he said.
There have been questions over the brand name in the past, and Cotterill admitted that it could be something that plays a part in the brand’s perception.
“Toyota and Mitsubishi are quite ‘Asian’ names as well,” he said, “[but] that’s a theory that comes up not infrequently.”
That said, the company should feasibly be in better shape than it currently is in Australia. Ssangyong has recently tied itself to Indian manufacturing giant Mahindra, which Cotterill admits has had an impact.
“In fact, the tie-up with Mahindra has been a very good thing for the brand overall. The capital they’ve had access to has allowed lots of research and development.
“You’ll see with progressive new models that the styling has improved out of sight. You’re really starting to see the whole family taking cues from each other.
“There’s more industrial stability in Korea which has meant a stability of supply that perhaps wasn’t there before. You order certain cars at a certain time and they arrive now.”
When asked if the takeover by Mahindra will see the end of Ateco Automotive’s distributorship of the brand, Cotterill suggested that wouldn’t be the case.
“No, I don’t think the global tie-up with Mahindra is a threat to our distributorship in this country.
“There’s work to do with that brand, and the dealer network figures large in that, but as always it’s a work in progress.”
Ssangyong sales are down 14.4 per cent so far this year, with just 78 vehicles sold. So it needs something to spark sales, and the brand could potentially go where the growth is – that small SUV segment is the fastest growing in the world, not just Australia.
“Don’t rule Tivoli out, but it’s just not certain. And until, for whatever reason – be it currency or whatever else – until we can get the right numbers, we won’t. But if we can, we’d like to.”