Would market-leading coverage get you to look at this low-profile Korean brand's SUVs and dual-cab utes?
The head of SsangYong’s new Australian factory-backed subsidiary wants the brand to relaunch in November with a market-leading warranty. The challenge is getting the plan approved by head office in Korea.
The goal is clearly to match rival Korean car-maker Kia with a seven-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty; a tactic that has become a powerful tool to smash any lingering misperceptions about the quality of that brand's vehicles.
“We want to offer as many Australians as possible access to our product and give them a level of service that other small OEMs trying to crack in, can’t… the after-sales support of a much bigger brand,” SsangYong Australia boss Tim Smith told us this week.
Smith was most recently Haval Australia’s managing director, and before that led Kia Australia’s dealer network development.
“An ideal scenario would be to have a market-leading warranty,” he added, but said the deal was not yet done in convincing the parent company to back it – something SsangYong Australia has to do since, as a new entity, it’s relying on cash reserves from HQ to start with.
SsangYong offers a five-year/unlimited-warranty from the factory, so that’s the minimum.
“We’re working very hard to realise an improved version of that. Not just the term, but the fine print,” Smith said. By that he may be referring to Kia’s policy of ‘reducing’ its cover to seven years or 150,000km for commercial usage, which remains generous.
“[But] we’ve got to be pragmatic and understand we’ve only got 3-4 months left before we launch,” he added.
SsangYong’s UK third-party distributor offers a seven-year/150,000-mile warranty on its Musso and Rexton, so such an arrangement has some precedent. Moreover, any brand battling for recognition in an intensely cluttered market like Australia needs unique selling points.
As you can read in more detail here, SsangYong is using Australia as its first place outside home to directly support a region, rather than simply paying an independent distributor and promoter such as Ateco Automotive or Sime Darby as it did previously.
“The benefits of that are all of our much larger competitors run that type of operation,” Smith said.
“What that does is you're able to set up the brand from an investment, operation, and standards point of view with a view of being there a lot longer, and having a much greater return on investment over a period of time.”
For background, SsangYong's majority owner and chief capital investor is India’s Mahindra and Mahindra. It’s a tiny company, expecting to sell about 150,000 units this year around the world, with 42,000 of those belonging to export markets led by Western Europe (UK, Germany) and South America.
When it launches here in Australia late this year it will be armed with three SUVs and a dual-cab ute, and about 20 dealers from the start.
The range will comprise the Tivoli small crossover to rival to the Hyundai Kona, its larger XLV spinoff to fight the Nissan Qashqai, the new-generation Rexton 4x4 competitor to the Ford Everest or Isuzu MU-X, and its coil-sprung Musso dual-cab pickup spinoff.
Beyond this, 2019 will see a stretched-tray version of the Musso available with either leaf- or coil springs at the rear, a completely new-generation Korando medium SUV to compete with the Hyundai Tucson (potentially designed by Pininfarina, given both have the same parent company), and a mid-cycle update of the Tivoli.
Read more on all that here.
Keep an eye out next week for a series of introductory reviews on the XLV, Rexton and Musso, sharing our initial thoughts and more product information.