Ssangyong’s Ute gets a stronger future
The Korean car business has had its ups and downs, and none more than Ssangyong. In recent times the prognosis was that it would become a casualty of the Korean economy. But a new agreement with Indian giant Mahindra & Mahindra looks likely to secure the company’s future as a manufacturer.
Mahindra & Mahindra is India’s largest sport-utility vehicle maker. After the two companies signed a preliminary agreement concerning the acquisition of Ssangyong, the current prognosis is that a deal is expected to be confirmed over the coming months.
Mahindra was chosen as the preferred bidder for Ssangyong and replaces a series of uncomfortable experiences with the previous owner, China’s SAIC Motor Corp., who bought a 49 percent stake of Ssangyong in 2004 for $500 million.
While some may have doubts about Mahindra’s ability to revive Ssangyong after SAIC, the general feeling is positive amongst investment analysts, with Mahindra having shown strong commitment to the deal.
Mahindra, based in Mumbai, didn’t disclose the size of its bid for Ssangyong, which has a market value of 396 billion won ($340 million), according to Bloomberg data. MoneyToday, a Korean-language online newspaper, said earlier this month Mahindra offered 535 billion won for a controlling stake, citing an unidentified industry official.
Sources suggest that Mahindra has a plan to invest about $2 billion over the next three years for product development and plant expansion, and the move follows more than a year of uncertainty.
During Ssangyong’s time under bankruptcy protection and industrial action in Korea, Ssangyong Motors Australia has continued trading, selling new Ssangyong vehicles while providing service and parts support and backup for the large Ssangyong fleet on Australian roads.
Ssangyong Motors Australia’s parent company, Malaysian industrial giant Sime Darby, has provided the backing and commitment to underwrite the company’s operations and is now well placed to rebuild the brand in the Australian market.
According to Ssangyong Motors Australia General Manager, Mr Jeff Barber, “It has been a very long and tough haul, but our patience and perseverance is now paying off.”
“It hasn’t been easy, but with the backing of our parent, Sime Darby, we’ve done our best to protect our existing dealer network and the many thousands of Ssangyong owners in Australia,” said Mr Barber.
Along with the launch of the new Ssangyong Korando C, the company has made running changes to the 7-seat Rexton AWD and Actyon Sports dual cab ute, to improve styling.
Rexton has been given a slight restyle with cleaner lines and the Actyon Sports dual cab ute has received a new grille, across the range, to improve the frontal styling.
The Actyon Sports Ute and the new Korando C both use the Australian designed, and built, DSI six-speed automatic transmission, which is produced at the DSI manufacturing plant in Albury NSW. The Sports Ute was the first vehicle in the world to be fitted with this transmission (standard on SPR, optional on Tradie and Sports), and it is likely to be used in more Ssangyong models in the future.
The Actyon Sports Ute now has a softer and more modern look, but is still packed with equipment, offering a specification list that compares very favourably with anything on the market.
The Sports Ute is exclusively 100 percent diesel powered with the XDi two-litre turbocharged engine generating maximum power of 104 kW at 4,000 rpm and maximum torque of 310 Nm at 1,800 rpm.
Pricing continues to be extremely competitive, with the Sports Ute Tradie 4×2 starting from $24,990 for the five-speed manual and $27,990 for the six-speed auto. The 4×4 Tradie is priced from $27,990 for the manual and $30,990 for the six-speed auto.
Tradie comes standard with driver and passenger SRS airbags, air conditioning, electric windows and mirrors and remote central locking. Further standard features include steering wheel mounted controls, engine immobiliser and alarm, remote keyless entry system and a protective tub liner.
The standard 4×2 Sports Ute manual starts from $28,990, and $31,990 for the six-speed automatic, while in 4×4 configuration the manual is priced from $31,990 and the six-speed auto from $34,990.
Standard equipment on the mid-range Sports includes all of the Tradies features plus ABS and EBD, locking rear differential (4×2), 16-inch alloy wheels, leather steering wheel and gear knob and cruise control (auto only).
Topping the Sports Ute range is the SPR version, offering maximum equipment levels at the affordable price of $39,990 including 4×4 and six-speed automatic as standard, along with a swag of other standard features.
Along with the standard features from Tradie and Sports, the SPR is equipped with full leather trim, heated front seats, 18-inch alloy wheels, automatic lights, rear view mirrors and wipers, climate control air conditioning and reverse sensors.
The six-speed automatic transmission was developed and manufactured in Australia by Drivetrain Systems International at its Albury facility and boasts sport or winter modes, altering the electronically controlled shift points to maximize power or minimize fuel consumption. Winter mode starts the vehicle in second gear to reduce wheel spin in adverse weather or road conditions.
The 2.0-litre, common rail diesel engine conforms to Euro IV standards for low emissions and runs with an injection pressure of 1600 bar. It also features the latest third generation Variable Geometry Turbo (VGT) with maximum power of 104 kW at 4000 rpm and 310 Nm or torque at 1800 rpm. The engine emissions system uses exhaust gas recycling (EGR) and returns a combined cycle fuel consumption of 8.1 l/100 km.
The engine boasts a double bush chain drive for the double overhead cams, ensuring a quieter, but more durable system than rubber belts or single chain drive. The 4×4 driveline features remotely actuated, ‘on the fly’ switching from two-wheel drive to either high or low range four-wheel drive. Low range reduction is 2.48:1.
Suspension for the Actyon Sports features coil springs all round, with double wishbone suspension at the front and a five-link layout at the rear. This accounts for the supple and comfortable ride, a direct contrast to many utes where the ride quality is choppy due to the use of rear semi-elliptical leaf springs. Ventilated front brake discs are standard across the range, while the base model is fitted with drum brakes at the rear, and the higher spec, Limited, is equipped with solid rear discs and ABS as standard. Solid rear discs and ABS are also available as an optional extra on the base model.
The base model comes equipped with 16-inch steel wheels, with 16-inch alloys as an optional extra. The Limited comes with 18-inch alloys as standard equipment.
Actyon Sport features a load tray which is 1275 mm long, 1600 mm wide and 525 mm deep, which makes it deeper and wider than dual cab utes from two major Japanese rivals. The tray comes fitted with a hard-wearing poly liner as standard, ensuring better durability and serviced life. Load capacity is 830 kg, and it can also be fitted with an optional aluminium or steel drop-side tray. The 1900 mm wide drop-side tray is 60 mm wider than the factory Hilux, Navara and Triton trays. Towing ability is 2,300 kgs.
Security has also been vastly improved, with immobiliser, alarm and keyless entry system, all standard across the range.
The exterior features include front and rear fog lamps, front and rear mud-flaps, a durable tray liner with four internal tie down points and, importantly, a full size spare tyre. Inside the cab the standard features list includes electric windows, power mirrors and woven cloth seat trim.
There’s also a four-speaker AM/FM/CD car audio system with remote steering wheel mounted controls as standard, together with air conditioning.
The high spec Limited gains a further raft of features, including electrically adjustable and heated driver’s and front passenger seats, reverse parking sensors and a host of automated driver controls.
After a week spent with the Actyon Sports we got used to comments about the unusual styling, but potential buyers shouldn’t be deterred just because it is different from the normal competition.
As the future of the company now looks set to improve, we can now recommend the Actyon for its high level of equipment, strong performance of the engine and driveline, ease of driving and high standard of ride comfort.
It’s quiet, comfortable and good value. Considering the growth of Chinese utes that were previously unknown on our market, there’s now no reason not to include the Ssangyong. As a company, it has a longer involvement in manufacturing and its products have a higher technical ability than anything currently coming out of China.