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New managing director for SsangYong UK

SsangYong has the potential to become “the best niche franchise in the UK”, says Ken Forbes, who takes over as managing director on August 1.

Forbes replaces Bob Barris, who left the company earlier this month.

The former Citroën UK sales and marketing director adds: “SsangYong is an emerging brand and not many people know about it. My task will be to position it properly in the market by getting across the message about the quality of its products.”

Forbes spent time evaluating the Rexton 4x4 and Rodius MPV before taking the job and is convinced of the opportunities for the brand, which managed only 667 registrations between January and June.

Since leaving Emap Automotive (AM’s publisher) last year, where he was managing director, Forbes has been working as a consultant for Porsche GB. He says the combination of 13 years with a volume manufacturer (he took Citroën to record car and van sales) and experience with Porsche will help him to develop SsangYong. He began his career as a Ford graduate trainee.

SsangYong UK has 53 dealers and Forbes wants to double the network ready for new products, which he says will “galvanize the range”. He will not forecast a potential market share in advance of starting with the company.

Rexton is a large 4x4 offered for the price of smaller rivals (there is also a pick-up derivative) and Rodius is a roomy seven-seater MPV with controversial styling. Both are powered by obsolete Mercedes-designed engines manufactured in South Korea.

The Kyron, a mid-sized SUV, is due in January and the new Korando SUV (a Toyota Rav4 rival) in early 2007.

SsangYong UK is part of a consortium that includes Ireland’s Nissan, Chevrolet and SsangYong distributors and Windsor Motor Group, one of the country’s major auto retailers.

SsangYong Motor, founded in 1954, was merged with Daewoo from 1997 until Daewoo’s acquisition by GM. Last year, Shanghai Automotive (SAIC) bought a controlling share in the carmaker.

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