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Korea with big plans

Ssangyong's sales target for 2008 is a modest 3200-units, thanks to the release of its new diesel range.

The Chinese-controlled Korean brand Ssangyong wants to reinvent itself in Australia with a new distributor and a reinvigorated “100 per cent pure diesel engine” line-up.

If they pull it off, it'll be some feat.

Ssangyong has been derided in these parts as a poor person's Mercedes, partly because of the more than somewhat derivative Chairman executive car, while what might be politely termed as the “singular” styling of the Stavic people mover launched a thousand quips.

Launching the 2008 range, though, the impression is very much that better established brands who would laugh at Ssangyong do so at their peril.

The brand that sold a meagre 2123 vehicles in 2007 will surely surpass their unduly modest 3200-unit target for this year.

A new distribution company, SsangYong Motor Australasia, allies current distributor Russell Burling with the West Australian-based Barbagallo Group.

Operating from its own premises near Sydney Airport, Burling says the company has the pull to access all-new vehicles from Korea within two weeks of production, by far the fastest of any imported marque.

This line-up consists of either all-wheel or rear-wheel drive SUVs, twin cab utes and people movers, all stuffed with standard equipment, all priced lower than last year and all powered by a diesel engine.

“That Mercedes connection is not something we have to advertise, people are aware of it,” Burling says.

“The engine blocks are cast in Mercedes' South African foundry and assembled in Korea. But we don't need that connection, we can stand on our own two feet.”

Ssangyong has lately become the biggest client of the all-Australian, Albury-based firm Drivetrain Systems International (DSI); manufacturer of the sophisticated six-speed tiptronic automatics for Ssangyong's top spec models.

Ssangyong, Burling says, will offer the cheapest six-speed-slushers and the cheapest diesels in their class.

“There is a huge move from petrol to diesel at the coalface. Six cylinder sales are going to suffer."

“As to the price gouging on diesel, I think the Rudd Government will deal with that and realise that diesel is the good fuel for Australia."

“I'm not saying we'll see it go to 70 or 80 per cent diesels here as it has in France, but it will be a dramatic change.”

Ssangyong is offering a four-model lineup — Sports dual-cab; Rexton and Kyron, SUVs; and Stavic people mover. Each is topped by a model designated SPR, save for the outgoing Actyon SUV, which will be no more by year's end and is being run out at $29,990 — the cheapest diesel SUV around.

SPR features include anti-rollover protection, Brake Assist, T-tronic auto transmissions with thumbs up shift controls, full leather trim, climate control airconditioning, slide and tilt sunroofs, rain sensing wipers, auto dimming mirrors and automatic headlight controls. Standard features on all models — be they ever so humble — include Electronic Stability Program, ABS with four wheel discs, alloys, curtain airbags and parking sensors.

While other budget brands offer SUVs, the newly redesignated Sports — a dual cab utility with standard tray liner — offers a point of difference.

The Sports Dual Cab 4x2 starts from $28,990, the all-wheel-drive from $31,990. That six-speed auto with cruise control is a $3K option on both. The auto and standard SPR is $39,990.

Power comes from a 2.0-litre turbo diesel, good for 104kW at 4000rpm and 310Nm from 1800rpm.

“There is no doubt that if you have to spend more than two hours day in your work vehicle then this is by far the most comfortable,” Burling claims.

“I'm happy to stand up and be tested on that.”

The Kyron medium SUV has either the Sport's 2.0-litre engine (at $32,990) or, in the SPR, a 2.7-litre 121kW/340Nm common rail turbocharged diesel (from $39,990).

The range topping Rexton SUV uses the 2.7-litre unit and is priced at $35,990. The new Rexton II RX270 SPR priced is $49,990 with a 137kW/402Nm variable geometry turbo version and maximum equipment levels.

Amusingly, given the riot that is its rear-end, it's the Stavic's grille that has been restyled. The base model is $32,990, the SPR $39,990.

Burling admits that the Ssangyong name still causes some confusion, as opposed to the old Musso moniker.


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