Korea’s SsangYong is coming back to Australia for another crack at our unusually competitive and fragmented new vehicle market.
While we learned that little fact in March this year, we now know a little more about its plans, which include re-launching as an official distributor in the fourth quarter of 2018.
The company had previously used independent distributors such as Ateco Automotive, thereby outsourcing dealer franchising, parts distribution, marketing, and all the rest.
SsangYong has already appointed managing director Tim Smith, who was the inaugural MD of Haval Australia. Now, while that Chinese company is not exactly kicking sales goals, Smith does clearly have experience setting up a new company and signing dealers.
We understand many of SsangYong’s previous network members are keen to re-sign. More will no doubt follow.
We now also know that the company’s model range will include the Tivoli small crossover SUV to rival the Mazda CX-3 and Hyundai Kona, the Rexton SUV that’ll be aimed at the likes of Ford’s Everest, and its Musso dual-cab ute derivative.
You’ll also notice that the days of SsangYong’s hilariously ‘polarising’ (some might say ungainly and vaguely frightening) design language - old Musso and Stavic come to mind - are gone. These cars all look fine, at the least.
Moreover, all will get things such as autonomous emergency braking, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and sport what the company promises will be “great value for money”.
SsangYong has a few advantages in Australia: Hyundai and Kia have normalised Korean cars, previous SsangYong product generally proved reliable (the Mercedes engine in that Musso was great), and it already sells product in the UK, so it has right-hand drive sorted.
The company offers a five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty in Europe, and will need something similar in Australia.
The 4.2m long Tivoli will likely be sold here with a 1.6-litre engine, and come loaded with equipment to compete with the CX-3 and co in the booming Small SUV segment, priced from the low $20ks. There’s a bigger Tivoli XLV that may also emerge.
The Rexton 4x4 has three rows of seats and the company's own 2.2 diesel making 133kW/420Nm, matched with a seven-speed Mercedes auto transmission. SsangYong says it’ll tow 3.5t, which would be class-leading, and it also has low-range reduction gearing for off-roaders.
The Musso is spun-off the same platform and fits a Euro pallet in the back.
With dual cab utes now Australia’s top-selling vehicles, the Musso with its 3.5t tow rating and sufficient GCM to carry a ton at the same time, its slick cab, and its Aisin six-speed auto box, has every chance.
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