Ian Nicholson, SsangYong UK group finance and operations director, told AM that the dealers wanted to leave because "they’ve been through relaunch after relaunch and they can’t go through it again".
Koelliker UK, the newly appointed importer of SsangYong's into the UK, is now embarking on a dealer redevelopment process.
Nicholson said: "We’re all grown ups and we're not going to fall out about it, if they want out, we'll shake hands and move on. But they won't get parts, they won’t get warranty work and they won't get any cars."
SsangYong UK is looking to recruit new dealers with the right attitude and not necessarily franchised dealers.
"We're not looking at PLCs and don’t think they’re looking for us. It’s likely we’ll seek out non-franchised dealers, used car only sites, boat dealers, agricultural dealers to add on the SsangYong franchise to their business."
Nicholson said that in terms of franchise standards, SsangYong’s are relatively low. He said: "They’re business based. We’re not going to come down on a dealer because they didn’t iron the newspapers or if they’ve chosen the wrong colour tiles for their bathroom."
SsangYong has 70 areas around the UK that it is looking to fill and the plan is to have a network of 100 dealers before 2010.
Nicholson said: "We’ve got huge gaps in the UK and we’re searching for representation. However, we won’t make the mistake that some niche manufacturers make of piling on the dealers to generate volume.
"We want to create building blocks to create a strong dealer network for the future."
Even though SsangYong UK has only got 29 of its 50 dealers behind it, it's still confident of succeeding with the latest relaunch of the SsangYong brand.
"It has set us back, but it’s given us the opportunity to build a stronger network," Nicholson added.
SsangYong will be increasing its presence at equestrian sport, agricultural, caravan and taxi shows in order to get the brand amongst its target audience.
Nicholson said: "It's not about being on TV or getting into the daily newspapers, it’s about getting the product in front of people. Our dealers need to get into supermarkets, caravan parks and garden centres. Get people in the cars."
SsangYong relaunched its product line-up in February with a revised pricing structure, starting at £14,995 for the Kyron S and Rodius 270 S.
Nicholson said the price change hasn’t impacted on retail sales yet, but SsangYong UK didn’t mass market the change because the UK public still doesn’t know about the brand. He said: “It would have just been wasting money.”
SsangYong UK will also be introducing its Used Approved Programme in May.
Nicholson said: “We haven’t got a huge parc out there, but it’s enough. There are cars coming from fleets and rental into the used car market now.
“We’ve got to build back confidence in the brand and strengthen residual values.”