Ssangyong Motors Singapore and Proton Singapore recently launched their Musso and Arena models respectively
Ssangyong, Proton eye pickup market For work and play: Ssangyong's Musso and Proton's Arena were introduced about two months ago

TWO brands better known for their passenger cars have quietly entered the more than $12 million pick-up market. Ssangyong Motors Singapore and Proton Singapore recently launched their Musso and Arena models respectively, and are pitching the lifestyle and leisure aspects of these otherwise mundane commercial vehicles.

Both the Korean and Malaysian vehicles are not only different from each other but they also stand out from the rest of the market, which is dominated by two Japanese brands - Nissan and Isuzu.

The Ssangyong Musso Sports is only available as a double cab pick-up, which means it has four doors and can seat up to five people. It also has a 2.9-litre turbo-diesel engine designed by Mercedes-Benz and prices start from $65,000 depending on the features chosen, such as two-wheel-drive or variable four-wheel-drive, and manual or automatic transmission. The Korean-made Musso was first seen in Singapore as a sport-utility vehicle and was last offered here in 2002. Ssangyong Motors Singapore also sells the Rexton range of SUVs.

As for the Proton Arena, it is a single cab pick-up with a 1.5-litre petrol engine. The sporty-looking vehicle is based on the Wira sedan and comes in a variety of candy colours. It costs about $26,000 with COE.

Since their introduction about two months ago, around a dozen units of the Musso have been sold and around 10 units of the Arena. Last year, the one-tonne pick-up segment registered sales of about 420 units. Nissan is the market leader with almost 70 per cent, with Isuzu taking up the rest. The market is also overwhelmingly diesel-powered as 90 per cent of commercial vehicles in Singapore have diesel engines.

'Running costs are substantially lower because diesel fuel is much cheaper than petrol,' said one dealer. Diesel currently costs about 95 cents a litre, while the cheapest petrol grade starts from $1.43 per litre.

He added: 'Given that the road tax for petrol commercial vehicles is only about $100 less than diesel commercial vehicles and most commercial vehicles incur high mileage daily, it makes more business sense to run on diesel rather than petrol.'

The fuel consumption of a diesel engine is also lower, with some pick-ups clocking up as much as 17 km per litre.

Nissan and Isuzu diesel-engine single cab pick-ups start from about $36,000, while their double cab versions start from $60,000. The latter is estimated to make up only about 5 per cent of all pick-ups sold. These four-door versions are more expensive because of the higher tax structure imposed by the government to prevent them from being used as private transport.

But Ssangyong Motors said its Musso Sports pick-up is not meant to compete with Nissan and Isuzu models. 'Those are specially built for purely commercial purposes,' explained senior manager Benny Lim. 'Whereas the Musso Sports is a dual purpose commercial vehicle for both work and play.'

He said his target market are those people who are small business users and who require a vehicle for work, family and recreation. These customers would also appreciate a rugged vehicle with saloon-like comfort that can go off-road.

'You can drive the kids to school, haul your tools to the worksite or groceries from the market, and even take the family to the beach. All in one day, all in one vehicle,' said Mr Lim.