Used car dealer to mark the event with launch of new showroom
Motorway takes over SsangYong for $8m

PRE-OWNED luxury specialist and rental car company Motorway Group has paid $8 million to take over the SsangYong franchise in Singapore.

Motorway SsangYong is now the sole distributor of the Korean make best known for its sport-utility vehicles (SUVs) powered with engines licensed by Mercedes-Benz. Previously, SsangYong was represented here by SsangYong Motors.

Motorway assumed the distributorship in October last year and will mark the event with an official launch of a new showroom, called the SsangYong Gallery, in Lower Delta Road.

This is the second time the distributorship of the marque has changed hands in Singapore. The previous distributor is understood to be concentrating on other brands.

“We were looking for new opportunities and we found out that the SsangYong franchise was available,” says Michael Lim, managing director of Motorway Group.

Motorway was appointed by SsangYong after about six months of negotiations and the deal was signed in Seoul in October last year, he says.

Motorway has also bought $5 million of stock from the previous distributor, comprising 150 mainly Stavic and Actyon models, plus some Rexton SUVs and Chairman long-wheelbase saloons.

Another $3 million will be spent on the new showroom and workshop, as well as on branding and marketing.

Until now, Motorway has been one of a handful of used car dealers specialising in exotic and super-luxury models. It used to be a parallel importer of Japanese models but gave that up late last year.

Motorway, which began in 1992 as a used car dealer, also has a rental fleet of about 500 cars.

So why venture into the new car business as an authorised distributor?

“We believe the timing is right because SsangYong now has a higher profile and will soon launch a new range of passenger models with engines below two litres,” says Mr Lim.

The SsangYong nameplate is strongly associated with SUVs and recreational vehicles, although it has large high-end saloons like the Chairman. The vehicles also typically have big petrol engines, ranging from 2.3 litres to 3.2 litres.

But from next year, SsangYong will develop seven new models, including a mid-size sedan with a 1.8- litre engine.

SsangYong also has diesel models, like the Musso pick-up and the 2.7-litre Rodius – the diesel version of the Stavic – currently used as a cab by SMRT Taxis.

Mr Lim says he has already received an order from a multinational corporation here for 100 units of the Actyon Sport – a double cab pick-up that replaces the Musso.

Compared to Japanese alternatives, the $71,000 (including COE) Korean model is attractive to the client because of its big body, relatively small two-litre diesel engine and competitive price, he says.

“The prospects for the brand are good,” he believes, but declines to forecast how many units he will sell this year.

“It is too early to say but we aim to sell significantly more vehicles than in previous years,” he says, although he expects a 50-50 mix in terms of passenger and commercial units.

In 2006, Ssanyong registered sales of 259 vehicles in Singapore, about 60 per cent of them commercial vehicles. But in 2007, total volume dipped to just 147 units. This was because SsangYong’s Euro IV diesel vehicles only arrived later in the year.

‘We believe the timing is right because SsangYong now has a higher profile and will soon launch a new range of passenger models with engines below two litres.’