Until the recent reboot, perhaps a few witnesses – myself included – remembered the somewhat strange models of the SsangYong brand after the turn of the millennium. I still remember the sight of something strangely shaped and huge that was parked in front of the editorial office and it was called Rodius. In my very first journalistic steps, I myself tested the Actyon Sports pick-up truck. Back then I was excited about almost any new car, but the Actyon Sports was a big quirk even for me. I will not forget mainly the head of the gear lever in the shape of a triangle, which, without exaggeration, painfully pressed into the palm of my hand. That was a nutritious trip to Moravia back then…
However, this is in the past. Five years ago, when Petr Škutina and his team relaunched the SsangYong brand, he rather pointed to the fact that almost no one knew Korean models. “People didn’t even really know how to spell SsangYong, let alone associate it with a specific product or country of origin,” Petr returned to the very beginning. “I was actually in a similar situation to my previous job, where we were driving Skoda sales in Australia. Opponents often had no idea what Škoda was. They thought it was probably some Japanese brand that makes lawnmowers. Something like a Honda,” explains Petr. “However, this experience later helped me a lot with the SsangYong brand, even in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, mainly at the beginning we emphasized more comprehensible names for the individual models and only then on the SsangYong brand name itself.”
At first it was mainly Rexton, Tivoli and Korando. SsangYong gradually got under the skin of our customers. “We have moved a lot in this direction over the past five years. Customers already know us, they know what kind of cars SsangYong makes. Even how to spell it correctly,” smiles Petr.
A clean sheet of paper
SsangYong in the Czech Republic – and also in Slovakia – was renewing its career, but in reality it was starting from scratch. There was no sales network, nothing… “For me personally, the most important thing was that I was given a free hand. I assembled a small team of experienced professionals who could react flexibly to everything from the beginning. This team also includes the VONDRÁK&HEISIG agency, in which they have the same DNA as us. The great thing is that we still manage to keep our start-up character – we react quickly, we make quick decisions, we often look for creative solutions with a strong emphasis on efficiency,” calculates Petr. “By having our hands free, we can tailor many things directly to the Czech and Slovak market and especially to the customer.”
“In the beginning, of course, we didn’t have a history of sales numbers to lean on, but we came with a clear idea of how the brand should work here. The already mentioned directness, efficiency and business thinking were attractive to our future partners and they went with us. We build the dealer network with sensitivity to ensure its optimal availability for customers, but also an interesting business opportunity for our dealers,” explains Petr Škutina.
Quick start is perhaps an understatement for SsangYong, I’d say. From the time Petr hung up the phone with the offer to lead SsangYong in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, to handing over the very first car to the customer… I’ll leave you a second for your tips. do you have So, the correct answer is half a year. Fičak.
Korando and covid as turning points
However, at the end of 2019, Korando marked a real breakthrough. And paradoxically covid. “We can and like to do things in a different way. And this is exactly how we proceeded during the coming covid. While marketing spending has generally been cut back, we’ve gone big. In addition, we had the newly available Korando, from whom we had high hopes. And it paid off.”
A few figures from the Czech passenger car market – while SsangYong sold less than a hundred cars in the whole of 2019, a year later it was already less than four hundred. The Korean brand surpassed the thousand sold mark the very next year, and last year it attracted exactly 2,345 customers and broke the percentage share on the Czech market. “It may seem that one percent is not enough. However, it is the moment when our cars start to be seen on the roads and also the moment when we leave brands such as Suzuki, Mazda or Volvo behind in passenger car registrations.”
This year? 2904 cars in the Czech Republic in eleven months. Prim is played by the difference player Korando, which registered over two thousand cars, the second place belongs to Rexton (345 cars), the recently introduced novelty Torres takes the bronze for 126 registrations. “Torres is a distinctive car, customers are very curious about it. In addition, it shows the direction in which the design of future SsangYongs will go. Interest in the Torres model and its sales are growing rapidly.”
SsangYong currently has a very young model line, in addition to the all-new Torres, the Rexton and the derivative Musso Grand pick-up have also been rejuvenated, the Tivoli and Tivoli Grand have also been modernized. In addition to all this, we can look forward to one more news. “Next year we will introduce a fully electric version of Torres. SsangYong will also have an offer for customers looking for an electric drive. The important news for our traditional customer is that we will continue to offer our cars with internal combustion engines. SsangYong will remain the same in a good sense, we will still offer a car with a good price/value ratio. Nothing will change about that,” says Petr Škutina, Country Manager of the SsangYong brand for the Czech and Slovak Republics.
The success of SsangYong proves that there is still a great demand for solid cars for normal money. Not to be, but there are fewer and fewer such reasonable choices not only on the Czech market… Let’s hope they last!