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Ssangyong set for new era

Ateco plans to boost Ssangyong dealerships to 60 within 12 months.

The brand has been picked up by one of Australia's most aggressive vehicle distributors.

Ateco Automotive, which distributes Citroen, Great Wall, Chery and Lotus - and under an associate firm, Ferrari and Maserati - promises new prices, new models and a change to the diesel-only philosophy. It took over Ssangyong's national distributorship from Sime Darby this week ahead of handing Citroen to Sime Darby in January.

Ateco also took control of Foton light to medium truck range in Australia. The truck range - but not the Foton ute models - was relinquished by Transpacific Western Star. Ateco is now setting up dealers for the trucks and is planning to expand into the heavy-duty truck market. Ssangyong has driven a tough road in Australia despite budget pricing and claims of value for money.

In the year to September, it has sold only 32 vehicles - the same number as Lamborghini and one-third of the sales of Maserati. Ateco spokesman Daniel Cotterill says new models are planned. “We have made adjustments to the range including overturning the former importer's diesel-only policy,” he says.

“So we expect the first of the Ateco-spec vehicles to get here in early 2013 and they will include diesel, petrol and petrol automatic SUVs.” Mr Cotterill says prices of the 2013 range will be competitive though “there's still currency fluctuations to deal with”.

“We have about 300 vehicles being handed over to us this week by Sime Darby and there are others in stock - and I don't have this figure yet - at the 28 national dealerships,” he says.

“The existing vehicles will be sold at very competitive prices.” He says the best example is the Korando SPR which is $29,990, down from $38,775. “We have ambitious growth targets,” he says of Ssangyong. “We have a simple approach - give people what they want; get the right dealer network; and sell the vehicles at the right price.”

Ateco plans to boost Ssangyong dealerships to 60 within 12 months. It now has 28 dealerships and seven parts and service outlets. Next year Ateco plans to sell an updated Rexton, Koranda and Stavic people mover - the latter now claimed to be restyled after years of taunts about its convoluted design.

Mr Cotterill says under the ownership of Indian conglomerate Mahindra and Mahindra, Ssangyong has a strong future with excellent financial underpinnings and access to further capital. “Mahindra is investing in Ssangyong,” he says. “For us, that means up-to-date vehicles and continuity of supply.”

Though owned by the Indian company, Ssangyong continues to make its vehicles in South Korea. Ateco's control of Foton trucks allows access to China's biggest commercial vehicle manufacturer. Foton has joint-venture arrangements with companies including Daimler AG. It makes Daimler Mercedes-Benz medium and heavy trucks under the Auman name - he badge that will be used by Ateco in Australia.

Auman trucks use China-made Mercedes-Benz heavy-duty engines that are rated at Euro-5 emissions. The Foton utes will continue to be sold through Queensland company FAA Automotive Australia.


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