The story behind SsangYong’s UK relaunch

Published: 02 June 2008

SsangYong is back in the UK. Bet you didn’t even know it had gone. Or, indeed, that it was here at all.

Therein lines the failure of the old lot, now in administration, says new MD Paul Williams. Heading up new importer Koelliker UK, a division (securely funded, he stresses) of Italian giant Gruppe Koelliker, Williams oversaw a 350 per cent sales increase under his watch as boss of Kia UK. Now he’s looking to turn around SsangYong – from less than 2000 UK sales in 2007 to a potential 10,000 sales by 2009.

SsangYong – the collapse into administration

Concerns about the UK’s importer were raised by SsangYong HQ early in 2007. SsangYong was doing well in other countries, so why not in one of Europe’s biggest markets? Williams was approached, and concluded that things were so bad and dealers so demotivated, it may just have been well to start again from scratch. The factory preferred a soft landing instead.

The Koelliker deal was signed in late December 2007. Williams immediately appointed a management team and worked all over Christmas. First job? Slash prices. Models were naively priced, topping out at £25,000; now two entry-level models start at £14,995, with logical steps between trims.

Click ‘Next’ to find out more about SsangYong’s relaunch

So how will the ‘new’ SsangYong be pitched?

The UK’s dealer network has been chopped back, and the 30 or so remaining outlets were, in late December 2007, given a 12-month rolling contract and a new set of minimum standards: such as carrying one of each model in stock. Having demonstrators. A courtesy car. Brochures. Fundamentals missing before.

There is now a press office, a used car scheme, dealer training, marketing campaigns targeted to those who will buy one (Farmers Weekly, not Car).

SsangYong: the new boss speaks

‘It’s all about sustainability,’ says UK managing director Williams. ‘We’re selling functional cars doing functional jobs.’ A commonsense approach is now in place, he vows.

What of the long-term future? Williams came here from Landwind’s European division. If the Chinese really are coming, logic says there are worse places to do it through than a large, well established multi-franchise importer with experience of brand start-ups, headed by a man you already know.

What should SsangYong do for success? Click ‘Add your comment’ and tell us what you’d do if you were the new boss