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SsangYong set to lose nearly half of its dealers

SsangYong UK is expected to shed half its current dealer network under new boss Paul Williams’ plans to overhaul the franchise.

Currently a 60-strong dealer network, the car manufacturer only expects 35 of those partners to continue representing the brand in the long term.

Despite the drastic decrease in numbers, Williams, SsangYong’s UK managing director, wants 70 dealers by the end of this year and 100 by 2010.

There are a number of new dealer sites in the pipeline, with the first due to open shortly in Staffordshire.

Dealers signed a one-year contract when SsangYong changed hands to Koelliker UK back in December 2007, and this will be reviewed in December 2008. Dealers and SsangYong will both be able to opt out of them.

Williams said: “We think there are 35 dealers who want to work with us, as it stands. Our current dealers will be reviewed when the one-year contract is up.

“In quarter two, we will start in earnest to build up our network. “We are now communicating in ways we were not before. In two months, there have been two dealer meetings in order to keep them properly informed.

“So far we have done exactly what we said we were going to do. For example, we said we would have a new website up and running by a certain date, and it was.”

Williams admits that, previously, there was a lack of awareness of the product and poor geographical coverage. “In my opinion, marketing was being directed in the wrong way,” he added.

“It’s effectively a re-launch. We are almost starting afresh. It’s clear we have good products which are functional and good value.

“We’ve readjusted our pricing – it is much more aggressive and better matches the models,” he said.

Marketing will target specific magazines and newspapers and patches where there are dealers rather than TV or the national press. Audiences targeted will include rugby fans and caravan owners who Williams believes will be interested in the towing capabilities of the vehicles.

Advertising will be under the tagline ‘It works for me’. “It works for dealers and it works for customers,” said Williams.

SsangYong expects to sell 3,500 units in 2008, up from 1,300 in 2007. By 2010, it wants to sell 10,000 cars.

“But it’s not about short- term targets,” commented Williams. “The issue is about building up properly in the long term – the sooner we get acceptance and more dealers, the sooner we start selling cars.”

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