LONDON – SsangYong, Korea’s No. 4 automaker, will assemble its first models in China this year. It will also set up complete knockdown kit (CKD) assembly plants in Russia and Iran.
SsangYong could emerge as the technology mentor for China’s Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp., which bought a 48.9 percent stake in it last October.
After SAIC called off its planned acquisition of England’s MG Rover this spring, SsangYong is poised to become the Chinese company’s primary provider of design and engineering.
Until the investment by SAIC, SsangYong had been operating under tight financial restrictions resulting from the collapse of its former owner, Daewoo.
“We got to where we are with very little in the way of resources,” said SsangYong’s design advisor Ken Greenley at the launch here of the Rodius large minivan. “Now, we have a rather large company behind us.”
SAIC’s involvement has enabled SsangYong to embark on what Greenley says is a “pretty ambitious program for the future,” though it will remain faithful to its core sector of SUVs.
It will add three or perhaps four new SUV lines to the current Rexton and the Rodius (see story, left).
SsangYong’s global sales target this year is 170,000 units, with 60,000 of those exports split between Europe and China.
Greenley said SsangYong products will stir controversy with their looks.
“If you produce a mainstream product it would depend heavily on pricing to get noticed,” he said. “A distinctive identity is the best answer for a small company.”