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Ssangyong’s fresh slate

Inside its South Korean HQ

It’s been a tough road for Korean car manufacturer, Ssangyong, both locally and in their home country. Once upon a time, Ssangyong seemingly had a solid future planned out. A technological partnership with, at the time, Daimler-Benz, produced the Ssangyong Musso, which saw minor success in certain markets, thanks to the Mercedes-Benz dealer network.Ssangyong

Ssangyong further benefited from the alliance with products like the MB100, Korando, Rexton and Kyron, each sharing different Mercedes-Benz technologies ranging from engines to transmission systems. The success was short-lived, as financial troubles hit the company.

Ssangyong then changed ownership from one conglomerate to the next, until 2011, when Ssangyong was acquired by Mahindra & Mahindra Limited, with a fresh injection of cash, resources, and, after decades of bumps along the road, a renewed sense of hope and direction.

On a recent visit to Korea, the message couldn’t have been clearer. Ssangyong is more than ready to gain back their foothold in the automobile industry; and they’re doing it by starting fresh, with a clear roadmap, new models, new engines, and a new strategy.

 

New design concepts

If their manufacturing plants were any indication, Ssangyong has big plans ahead. A quick tour around Ssangyong’s Pyeongtaek facility (50 kilometers from Seoul) revealed the efficiency of both their car manufacturing and product planning. The 874,484 square meter plant serves as Ssangyong’s main headquarters for over 4,000 employees, and also serves as the production hub for all their automobiles.

It’s here that Ssangyong’s vision of the future was made clear, as we were given glimpses to concept designs for soon-to-be-released models, as well as models that won’t see daylight for several years more. Among these was the Ssangyong LIV-2, which is intended to replace the aging Rexton sometime next year. The designs used for the LIV models are a complete departure from anything we’ve ever seen from Ssangyong, with modern, fluid lines, aggressive front ends and, a dynamic profile that, according to Ssangyong, was inspired by nature itself. Another notable concept was the similarly named SIV-2, which is on track to replace the Korando sometime around 2019.

It’s also here that Ssangyong revealed their decision to focus on the SUV market, as they believe that their long-standing history in producing rugged, reliable off-road vehicles will allow them to focus their efforts towards a singular specialization, which in turn results in products their customers can be truly satisfied with.

 

The heart of the matter

A trip to Ssangyong’s Changwon plant in Korea’s Kyungnam province, 400 kilometers South East from Soul and 40 kilometers west of Busan, revealed a similar philosophy in both dedication and efficiency. The 117,000 square meter plant is where Ssangyong manufactures the engines used by all of their models, producing almost 500,000 engines a year. To minimize cost and optimize output, the assembly lines are highly flexible, allowing all of Ssangyong’s five gasoline engines and six diesel engines to be built side-by-side. The cylinder block, crankshaft, cylinder head and con-rod are all designed and built in-house. Some parts however, such as the six-speed auto transmission and the seven-speed auto transmission, are sourced from Japanese manufacturer Aisin and Mercedes-Benz respectively. All current and future engines are Euro-6 compliant. Each engine is put through rigorous evaluations and testing to make sure that each one is consistently durable and reliable.

Ssangyong isn’t stopping there. With the future firmly in their sights, they know that innovation will be the key to grabbing a fair share of the market, particularly when they enter the United States. To prepare for this, the company is investing in small-displacement, high-efficiency engines, bringing the total engine configurations to thirteen.

In the pipeline are the G20DTR, a 2.0-liter turbocharged direct-injection gas engine with 225 hp and 343Nm of torque for their next-generation full size SUVs and pickups, and the G15DTF, a 1.5-liter turbocharged direct-injection gas engine with 163 hp and 255 Nm of torque, which may see itself inside the Korando and Tivoli SUVs sometime around 2019.

 

Ready to return

Ssangyong isn’t taking this comeback lightly. Learning from past mistakes, and now under the experienced distributorship of Ssangyong Berjaya Motor Philippines, Ssangyong is well on their way to becoming a real contender not just locally, but in Korea as well. If you need evidence, one look at the Tivoli garnering its share of praise will tell you that Ssangyong is headed in the right direction and ready to take the world by storm.