“People still think we’re an electronics company”, admits a senior member of SsangYong’s UK team.
Not the best position to build the brand on, but the manufacturer hopes the combination of new products, sponsorship, marketing initiatives and a customer focused dealer network will succeed in achieving managing director Ken Forbes’ ambition of becoming the “best niche franchise in the UK”.
And although sales figures remain modest, in terms of percentage growth things are looking good. Last year saw a 53% increase in total sales to 1,500 units. For 2006 the aim is for 3,500-4,000.
This will break down as 1,500-2,000 for Kyron, 1,500-2,000 for Rexton and 500 for Rodius. The Kyron will be available in the UK in six versions, all powered by the company’s first common rail diesel. The 2.0-litre unit produces 139bhp and 229lb ft at 1,800-2,750bhp – a healthy torque figure for competent towing and off-road performance.
With double wishbone suspension at the front and five-link coils springs at the rear, Hill Decent Control (HDC) – a feature it shares with Land Rover and BMW – a ladder chassis and credible ground clearance, the Kyron can mix it with the best of them.
A first-hand demonstration of the vehicle’s abilities will be an invaluable tool open to dealers – SsangYong has deals with off-road courses throughout the UK.
Genuine capability is just one buying factor SsangYong has identified within its target market. Value is another.
The SUV market price-point hot-spot is between £16,000 and £20,000. So, unsurprisingly, SsangYong has pitched the Kyron exactly in this zone with an asking price of between £16,995 and £22,495.
The entry level model is available in S-spec only and comes with two-wheel drive and a manual gearbox. Next up is a manual 4wd in S and SE spec, and at the top of the tree are the T-Tronic five-speed auto’ S, SE and SX.
Both on and off road the Kyron exceeds expectations.
There are some areas where the cost saving is clear, but the overall package is at least on a par with its nearest competitor, the Kia Sorento. And arguably its interior build quality, for example, is no worse than certain American marques costing considerably more than the Korean contender.
SsangYong already has a dedicated hardcore following. The challenge now facing the manufacturer and dealers alike is to persuade potential customers that it’s a valid alternative to the now established budget brands.
Strength: Price, spec levels, off-road ability
Weakness: Brand perception, opinion-dividing styling
Opportunity: To compensate for negative press received by Rodius
Threat: Established budget brands
The USP: Best value for money 4x4 on the market
Engine: 2.0-litre common rail diesel: 139bhp, 229lb ft @ 1,800-2,750bhp
Performance: 0-62mph: 14.2-16.2sec; top speed: 104mph
Transmission: Five-speed manual, five-speed automatic
Efficiency: 33.6-36.7mpg (comb), 197-217g/km CO2
Rivals: Kia Sorento, Hyundai Santa Fe, Suzuki Grand Vitara