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New SsangYong importer plans sales, dealer expansion

Out of here: New SsangYong Australia distributor Ateco has discontinued the bizarre Stavic people-mover.

Time right for SsangYong to step up, says new importer Neville Crichton

17 Sep 2012

AUSTRALIA’S new SsangYong distributor plans to expand the South Korean marque’s sales by more than a third in its first 12 months, while also growing the dealer network by about 50 per cent over time.

SsangYong Automotive Australia – a new private company wholly owned by Ateco Automotive’s Neville Crichton – will take over the South Korean marque from current importer Sime Darby on November 1.

In return, Malaysian-based Sime Darby is expected to get the Australian distribution rights for Citroen, which Ateco has confirmed will move to another importer, probably early next year.

The move means SsangYong will be imported alongside Chinese-built Great Wall Motors vehicles in Australia, while Citroen will be distributed alongside its French sister brand Peugeot by Sime.

SsangYong has had a checkered history in both Korea and Australia, coming perilously close to closing entirely in 2010 when then owner Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation walked away when striking Korean workers seized the factory, torching much of it.

Things have been looking up since India’s Mahindra and Mahrindra bought the bankrupt company in February 2011 and the necessary injected capital to start production of the new Korando and Actyon Sports, which have turned the fortunes of the brand around.

Announcing the SsangYong deal, Mr Crichton said SsangYong was looking up.

 center imageLeft: Neville Crichton, SsangYong Actyon Sports and Kyron.

“I have learned over the years that timing is everything in business, and I think we have timed our takeover of the brand perfectly,” he said.

“What I see when I look at Ssangyong gives me a great sense of optimism. The company is stable. The products are modern, technically sound and nowadays attractive as well.” Mr Crichton has had previous experience with Korean brands, having taken over Kia in 2000 and growing annual volumes from 5000 to 26,000 over the years.

Ateco managing director Ric Hull was also involved in the introduction of Hyundai to Australia, as well as Daewoo.

One of the first moves by the new SsangYong distributor in Australia will be to drop the quirky Stavic people-mover – the last of the old style SsangYong vehicles with the polarizing styling.

It plans to keep the top-selling (for SsangYong) Korando compact SUV, Rexton large SUV and Actyon Sports ute.

The unloved Kyron wagon was discontinued by Sime Darby in June, although some vehicles are still trickling through showrooms.

SsangYong Automotive Australia (SAA) spokesman Daniel Cotterill told GoAuto that additional models were in the pipeline from the Korean company, and they would join the range in future.

He said that while SsangYong sales were up 22.4 per cent this year, to 1233 units, SAA saw opportunity for greater sales via an expanded dealer network in Australia.

“We are looking to expand over time,” he said. “Currently there are about 38 full-time dealers and about seven parts and service dealers.

“We see room for about 60 dealers.” Mr Cotterill said SAA had no plans to scrap any of the current dealers.

SAA will start the SsangYong management with a fresh sheet, using its own staff to handle the import and distribution arrangements.

He said no staff members were expected to transfer from Sime Darby to SAA.

SsangYong is planning to reveal an all-electric concept car, the e-XIV, at next week’s Paris motor show.

Although that model is unlikely to go into series production any time soon, Mr Cotterill said Ateco had been on the look out for an appropriate electric vehicle to add to its Australian sales range at the appropriate time.

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