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Future models - SsangYong - Korando

SsangYong set for manual-only Korando launch

Fresh start: In a departure from its traditionally quirky styling, SsangYong sought the services of Giorgietto Giugiaro to take care of the new Korando's design.

Aussie auto delayed in SsangYong Korando launch for Australia in 2011

SsangYong logo10 Dec 2010

By RON HAMMERTON

SSANGYONG’S Italian styled compact SUV, the new-generation Korando, is expected to be launched Down Under in six-speed manual form during the first quarter of 2011, with vehicles featuring an Australian-made automatic transmission to follow later.

Importer Sime Darby SsangYong had hoped to launch the vital new vehicle by December in both manual and automatic variants, but the latest target date is January 18.

Volumes also will be limited initially, as SsangYong’s Pyungtaek factory in South Korea is ramping up its international rollout, including the UK.

28 center imageA type-inspection vehicle for Australian Design Rule (ADR) inspection is in Australia, but so far, ADR approval has not been publicly posted, just five weeks out from launch.

The first shipment of right-hand drive vehicles was also scheduled for loading this month, but that has not been confirmed.

The Korando represents a new beginning for SsangYong, which has been best known for its quirky styling and financial struggles.

Designed by Giorgietto Giugiaro and powered by a 129kW 2.0-litre direct-injection diesel engine, the Korando is set to potentially bring SsangYong into the mainstream market for the first time.

It will be available in six-speed manual form initially, and, within a month or two, an alternative six-speed automatic transmission designed and made by Albury’s Drive Systems International (DSI).

SsangYong is now under the control of India’s Mahindra and Mahindra, which last month agreed to pay $463 million for the bankrupt company.

The new Korando – which has shed the Jeep-like design of the original model sold in Australia during the 1990s – made its debut as the SsangYong C200 at the Paris motor show in 2008, just as the company was drowning in red ink at the height of the global financial crisis.

After coming under court-controlled receivership and facing liquidation, SsangYong drew the attention of Mahindra, which is expected to complete the take-over by March to create a new pan-Asian car company that will focus on SUVs but also expand into passenger cars.

Australian importer Sime Darby SsangYong’s general manager Jeff Barber, told GoAuto last week that the first batch of Korandos were loaded on to a car carrier for Australia, with an expected arrival date around New Year.

He said a tentative media launch date of January 18-19 had been set, with roll-out of stocks to dealers around that time.

“Stock will be tight for a few months due to restrictions at the factory,” he said.

As GoAuto has reported, the Korando will be available in both 4x2 and 4x4 configurations, both powered by a new Euro 5-compliant ‘e-XDi200’ 2.0-litre direct-injection common-rail four-cylinder diesel engine featuring Electric Variable Geometry Turbocharger technology (E-VGT) and producing 129kW of power at 4000rpm and 360Nm of torque from 2000-3000rpm.

The front-drive manual version of the Korando offers combined-cycle fuel economy of 6.0L/100km and CO2 emissions of 157g/km, with the 4x2 automatic variant coming in at 7.3L/100km and 194g/km.

Slightly heavier AWD versions return 6.4L/100km (auto: 7.5) and 169g/km (auto: 199).

A petrol engine will become available later in 2011, but that is yet to be confirmed for Australia which runs diesel powertrains in its current range that comprises its Actyon SUV, Rexton, Stavic SUV and Kryon.

This year, the Actyon has been SsangYong’s best seller in Australia, notching up a combined 635 sales, with the Sports 4x2 model accounting for more than half that figure.

Total SsangYong sales in Australia are up a heartening 22 per cent to the end of November, with volumes expected to comfortably eclipse last year’s full-year tally of 1054.

This growth reverses the downhill slide that started almost from the inception of the brand's return in the mid-2000s (it was originally launched in 1996 with the Musso and then Korando, but the then-importer struck troubles in 2003).

In 2005, 2645 SsangYongs were sold in Australia, led by the Mercedes-engined Musso SUV.

Since then, the brand’s sale have slipped to 2206 in 2006, 2123 in 2007, 1372 in 2008 and 1054 in 2009.

Although one of China’s biggest auto-makers, SAIC (Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation), took control of SsangYong with a 51 per cent stake in 2004, it effectively walked away when the GFC crippled SsangYong. As well, the Chinese company was accused by SsangYong employees and the South Korean authorities of stealing technology and designs.

Sales of SsangYong vehicles did not stop in Australia during its bankruptcy troubles but in 2009 a massive and violent strike at the company’s South Korean plant halted production.

In SsangYong’s latest ownership deal, Mahindra will take a 70 per cent stake but the Indian company says SsangYong will continue to run as an independent entity with “primarily South Korean management”.

The new Korando is central to the success of the deal, tasked with leading the company out of the wilderness.

Both Mahindra and SsangYong have committed to developing new joint products, which are expected to include passenger cars.

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