SEOUL – Looking at SUV maker Ssangyong’s stand at the annual auto show here, most observers would never guess it represents a company recently rescued from the brink of disaster, much less by an Indian auto maker.
Ssangyong, which was under bankruptcy protection until three weeks ago when it sold a majority stake to& Mahindra Group, arguably has one of the best exhibits at the show.
Pawan Goenka, president of’s automotive operations, tells the media his company will begin importing Ssangyong’s Korando C and Rexton SUVs in March 2012.
The vehicles will be imported as complete-knocked-down kits in order to skirt India’s steep import tariffs on completely built-up vehicles.
Anand Mahindra, M&M Group vice chairman, says in addition to introducing Ssangyong vehicles in India, Mahindra will work cooperatively with the Korean auto maker to develop SUVs for some African markets.
“Africa is already a high-potential market, and Ssangyong and M&M both produce SUVs that are perfect for the needs and terrain of markets in Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana, South Africa and others,” he says.
Ssangyong has 10 vehicles on display at show. Making its world debut is the New Chairman H luxury sedan, as well as four concept cars, four production vehicles and four advanced eco-friendly new engines.
Ssangyong adds a unique touch to its exhibit’s second-level lounge by perching a couple of its SUVs on the broad staircase.
“We did this so that our vehicles would be visible (from) a great distance and show above the crowds,” a spokesman tells Ward’s. “GM Korea tried to achieve this by flying a propeller-driven model vehicle above its stand, but we have the real thing in full view.”
In keeping with the show’s energy-efficiency theme, Ssangyong unveils two battery-electric vehicles: the high-tech KEV2 concept and the more-basic Korando SUV.
The KEV2 was shown as a concept vehicle at the Busan motor show last year, but is on the floor here in production format. It is more elegant in shape than the boxy Korando C EV and sports a luxurious interior.
A Samsung computerized console features touchscreen controls, a global-positioning system, and infotainment features and allows connectivity with tablets, smartphones and other wireless devices. The two rear seats each have a touchscreen, as well.
Korean news media refer to the KEV2 as a “modern office on wheels” and are enthused about the vehicle’s production prospects. However, a Ssangyong spokesman says the KEV2 is a one-of-a-kind show concept and there are no current production plans.
The Korando C EV also is a one-off concept vehicle and there are no plans to produce it, either. However, it is available for consumer test-driving outside the Korea International Exhibition Center, where Ssangyong hopes to garner consumer feedback.
With more than 1 million people expected to attend the Seoul show through Sunday, the auto maker anticipates test drivers will number in the thousands.
Both the Korando C EV and KEV2 feature similar propulsion systems, driven by a 120 kW (161 hp) electric motor powered by a 35 kWh 350V lithium-polymer battery.
With this system, the Korando C EV can clock speeds up to 93 mph (150 km/h) with a single-charge range of 112 miles (180 km). The vehicle can be recharged in 30 minutes using a high-speed 400V power input, or in eight-10 hours using a 220V household current.
The spokesman tells Ward’s the auto maker does intend to bring an EV model to market. “There is definitely a plan, but we cannot say when at this time. Hopefully, it is within two years.”
He also says Ssangyong is working on a hybrid-electric vehicle. However, the auto maker has cancelled its diesel-HEV program. There has been a big push to develop the technology, but it proved too costly and time consuming. Contrasting markedly with Ssangyong’s green-car offerings is the third-generation New Chairman H fullsize luxury sedan, a direct competitor to theSamsung SM7, also making its world debut at the show and on display in the next booth.
Samsung’s new premium entry will have its sales launch in May, when pricing will be announced. The car will be available in the 600S series, which sports a 220-hp, 3.2L inline 6-cyl. gas engine or a 500S version powered by a smaller 2.8L 200-hp straight-6 mill.
Both versions have a Mercedes-type 5-stage automatic transmission with a Trip-Tronic shift lever that permits manual shifting. Samsung’s original Chairman was built through a licensing agreement with Mercedes.
Measurements of both models are the same at 198.8 (505 cm) long, 72 ins. (183 cm) wide and 57.7 ins. (147 cm) high. Both sport a 114-in. (290 cm) wheelbase and weigh in at roughly 3,813 lbs. (1,730 kg).
The New Chairman H has an emergency stop-signal system, Hill Start Assist, hydraulic brake assist, speed-sensing variable power steering and ventilated front and heated rear leather seats.
Both versions come equipped with front and rear obstacle-detection systems, with four rear sensors and two corner sensors to provide safer parking. Other luxury touches include a heated steering wheel, smart-key security system and maple-wood dashboard.
Also on the floor in a Pure Pearl White finish is a stable of Ssangyong vehicles, including the Super Rexton, Kyron, gas-powered Korando C and Actyon Sport.