The Australian distributor for Korean brand SsangYong has put the brand on indefinite hiatus, and is now focused on clearing stocks and supporting owners.
The point of contention appears to stem from the pricing SsangYong wants to command and what Ateco feels it can charge customers, in what is one of the world’s most fiercely competitive new vehicle markets.
Ateco’s network currently offers the SsangYong Actyon Sports dual-cab ute, Korando small SUV, Rexton large SUV and Stavic people-mover, the latter perhaps best-known for its use as a maxi-taxi in Queensland.
All of these vehicles are sold primarily on price, with drive-away deals that sit below fellow Koreans Hyundai and Kia, and mainstream rivals from Japan and Thailand. But it appears the ‘Boldly Korean’ marque has grander pricing aspirations.
We were prompted to explore what was happening with SsangYong when we noticed it sold only 13 cars in January (a 16 per cent drop). In 2016 it only sold 371 vehicles for the whole year, down from 1000 in 2015, 1280 in 2014, 1507 in 2013 and 1590 in 2012.
“The situation is that SsangYong has not provided us with pricing which would make their otherwise excellent cars and utes a viable proposition for the Australian market,” Ateco told us.
“Until this position resolves itself Ateco is selling the remaining stock, but at the same time maintaining a full aftersales service for existing customers for service and parts.
“SsangYong owners will and are being provided with the full level of customer service they require. The outcome is now in hands of SsangYong who are deciding how they wish to proceed in the Australian market as part of the global strategy.”
Ateco — which also imports Chinese brands Foton Light and LDV, handles Maserati through its European Automotive Imports division, and has previously handled a vast range of brands that have since gone in-house — expanded on the situation.
“Ateco would be happy to continue with the brand, but it has to be a viable business for both Ateco and the dealers,” its spokesman told us. “That’s because a profitable business is a stable business and a stable business is a long-term one.
“This is a major benefit for customers, as it means when they buy a car it will be supported in the long term and it will be backed by an importer and a dealer group investing in the brand.
“At the moment the pricing being asked for these models, both existing and new ones, is not viable for the Australian market as they would be too expensive to generate sufficient sales to be a viable business.
“I am afraid there isn’t a timeline as they are working on new business plans for Europe, following the Brexit decision, and their plans to operate in the USA, following the election of President Trump, as well as their new plans for the Indian market.
“But the key thing for existing owners is that Ateco is committed to look after their needs and ensuring that they are not left in the lurch. We owe this to both our groups of customers, the owners of the cars and the dealers who delivered them. At the same time we are working with SsangYong for a solution for as long as it takes.”
This also means nice new European-inspired offerings such as the Tivoli crossover (above in red) remain off the table.