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SsangYong gears up for growth

24th July 2008 Print
Seven months have passed since Koellicker UK took over the Korean SsangYong franchise for the UK, and now managing director Paul Williams is ready to take the business forward.

“We’ve had to rebuild the business from the bottom up, and put together a joined-up business proposition – product, support, dealer network, financial support, customer terms and conditions – you name it, we had to do it,” he said. “Now all the building blocks are in place to build the franchise on – the next step is the dealer network.”

The job is to recruit a dealer network. When Koellicker took over, there were 50 sales dealers plus 10 service-only workshops. But not all were up to the task, and the network has been pruned to 28 sales dealers plus around 20 aftersales points. “Some of the dealers decided to stay on as aftersales-only operations, and that’s fine by us,” said Williams.

Geographical coverage is the biggest problem – while the franchise has good dealers in Northern Ireland, Scotland and parts of north-west England, there are very few dealers in the south-east or south west. But recruitment is progressing, and Williams is broad-minded about potential applicants.

“We’ve now got a business proposition joined up for dealers. We’re looking for people with the right attitude – not necessarily car dealers – they could be selling motorbikes, caravans, or agricultural equipment.”

The timing is good for the SsangYong franchise, Williams said. “Our cars fit the budget A SsangYong does the job of Land Rover Disco but at lower price – so customers don’t have to downsize – they only have to downprice.” There’s a gap in the market too for people who want to replace now-discontinued models such as the Isuzu Trooper or Daihatsu Fourtrak. He highlighted a demo-to-sales strike rate of over 60% as evidence that SsangYong is heading in the right direction. “We just need more of it – people need to know what we’re doing,” he said.

For example, the Rodius MPV is proving a hit with taxi operators. “We’ve deliberately attacked taxi market,” said Williams. “Rodius is a seven seater, and it’s ideal for airport or hotel runs because there’s space in the back for luggage.” The only real rival is the Chrysler Grand Voyager, but at £15,000, the SsangYong is around half the price of the Chrysler.

For the future, SsangYong is expected to grow rapidly. The company is owned by China’s Shanghai Automotive Industries Corporation, the biggest automaker in China, giving SsangYong access to engines, platforms and so on. The plan is to launch 20 new models from five new platforms over the next five years. Some of these are replacements for current models, but most are aimed at new sectors.

Williams has beefed up his management team to cope with these developments. “We’re massively over-resourced in terms of experience for what we’re doing – but based on future franchise growth, we’ll be able to take advantage of it.”