SsangYong has a big recruitment drive ahead of it for franchised dealers, and the new Tivoli SUV will play a central role in that expansion.
“Yes, our focus is getting more dealers on board, but we want a good network,” said SsangYong chief executive Paul Williams. Some of that will come from training and developing its existing network, but some of it will come from bringing in new franchisees to replace sites that are not performing.
Or, as Williams puts it: “Change ‘em or change ‘em.”
“We are investing heavily in training and support for our dealers – we have regular training at both our sales and technology academies. Some of our training and development programmes are also accredited with the Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI). We want to develop our dealers to be more competent at the day-to-day duties. Working with the dealer not only helps us, but them too.
“We have seen much more high-profile dealers now contacting us, wanting to work with us, which is great.”
The Korean manufacturer describes itself as a specialist SUV maker. It currently has 52 dealers in its network, with 15 authorised repairers. Its plan is to have 65 franchised dealers by the end of the year, with authorised repairers down to 12.
At the end of 2016, it expects to have 78 dealers within its network, and just nine authorised repairers.
Williams said it intends to do away with authorised repairers completely.
SsangYong sees the new Tivoli as the start of something great for the brand. Williams said the manufacturer has stepped up its game in development.
SsangYong has gone through an urbanisation in recent years. The Tivoli, is the spawn of that journey – off-road (the 4x4 version arrives in September), but urban-adapted.
To drive the Tivoli and its other models – Rexton, Korando, Korando Sports, Turismo – forward in the market, it has launched a £1 million advertising campaign (three times its budget last year), which is a significant amount of money for the Korean manufacturer. It includes a prime-time TV slot.
Williams’s focus is to get cars on the road: “The more cars on the road, the fresher our badge is in buyer’s minds”.
Currently, the Tivoli is available only in a 126bhp e-XGi160 petrol variant, until the 113bhp e-XDi160 diesel engine arrives in September. Both variants are Euro6-compliant.
Two transmissions are available; a six-speed manual and an AISIN six-speed automatic.
The petrol and diesel engines with manual transmission come with stop-start technology. The 1.6-litre petrol emits 149g/km of CO2 with start-stop (154g/km without), with the diesel achieving 109g/km with and 113g/km without.
“Engine variant popularity will be evenly split we think, between the diesel and the petrol,” said Williams.
The model is available in three main trim options; SE, which is available from £12,950, with grey cloth upholstery and 16” alloy wheels. EX starts from £14,600 and adds the option of diesel automatic and diesel 4x4 manual, with grey or beige leather upholstery, 18” spiral alloy wheels, a 7” touch screen infotainment system (with MirrorLink technology), rear view camera, heated seats, front fogs, and luggage load cover.
At the top of the range, the ELX starts from £16,000 and adds keyless start, front and rear parking sensors, privacy glass, auto headlamps and TomTom sat-nav.
The My Tivoli programme, which offers a wide range of further choices, is available to customers requiring further individualisation.
“This is a car that will really put SsangYong on the map,” said Williams.
“Ultimately, it’s the customer who wins: this is a modern, safe, well-built and comprehensively equipped car, and with a price and warranty no one else can match.”
Current market rivals include the Nissan Juke, which starts from £13,620, the Suzuki Vitara, which looks rather similar to the Tivoli, but its lowest starting point is £1,049 more, and the Jeep Renegade – the cheapest model available with leather seats is £21,195.
SsangYong has experienced marked growth since 2012 and registrations for the brand are up 53% for the year to May on the same period a year earlier. It registered 1,542 new vehicles in 2014, according to the SMMT, but SsangYong’s prediction for 2016 is 5,500.
The brand also recently opened a parts facility in The Netherlands, allowing parts to be ordered and delivered in the UK within 24 hours.
As the brand recruits more dealers and starts to build and sell more cars, it plans to talk to fleet specialists with a view to building that side of the business.
What your customers will read about the SsangYong Tivoli
Inoffensive styling, loads of space and superb kit go a fair way to compensating for average performance, a bouncy ride and high CO2 – but it has all its rivals beaten on price. Definitely worth a look.
It’s surprisingly roomy for a car less than 4.2m long and 1.6m high – certainly big enough for a family of four – and there’s a commendably spacious boot, which will be split-level in upper-trim models.
The Tivoli isn’t the last word in build quality or fuel economy, but it handles neatly, offers lots of cabin space and looks good. We expect buyers choosing it will still be motivated primarily by value for money and it’s certainly worth considering if this is more important to you than a fashionable badge.