Ssangyong Motors, the South Korean subsidiary of India’s Mahindra is set to launch its first car, Tivoli, following the buyout more than three years ago.
The B class SUV, to be equipped with the latest technology, will be launched in Seoul on January, company CEO, Lee Yoo-il, to HT, adding following the January launch the company hopes to launch a new car every year.
Lee met HT for an exclusive interaction at the company’s plush Seoul office last week, a day after the launch of Tivoli was announced.
Over green tea, Lee said it was the Indian company’s investment of $520 million in March 2011 that saved Ssangyong and kept it debt free; last year another 80 million US dollars were injected into the company.
“In my opinion, Mahindra invested the money in this company for future strategic cooperation. We are now working with Mahindra to strategically cooperate and create a synergy effect,” Lee said.
The CEO said the Mahindra has a very strong IT side, which could be a platform for cooperation.
“They have a small engine, we have a big engine. In the future, we can develop an engine together, share the platform and the cost,” Lee said, adding that both could bring their talents together to made car designs and frames.
Similarly Korean side is good with technology while India could provide low labour and “smart engineers”.
Lee said there were initial issues during the buyout as the two entities did business different ways, in different styles.
“There were cultural differences; differences in the way of thinking, way of doing business,” he said.
The workers’ unions were also very strong and they had apprehensions mostly because they did not know about India, the CEO said.
Mostly, the workers only knew that India was a big country with “many races and languages”.
“They wanted to know about the future plans?” Lee said.
During the negotiations, the union members were kept informed about the decisions, he said and now the issues have been ironed out.
Talking about the impending launch, Lee said the car is aimed at “urban, young buyers between 25 and 35”.
It is likely to be exported to at least 100 countries including in Europe, South America, Asia and West Asia.
Lee said that with this launch, he hopes that the company will not only make a sharp turnaround but will continue to serve as an example of Indo-Korea entrepreneurial success story.
Ssangyong Motors: A factfile
# The company was set up in 1954 with a cement factory
# The company sold a total of 10,222 units in November 2014 – 5,806 units in domestic sales and 4,416 in exports including CKD (completely knocked down) kits.
# Some of its popular brands are Korando, Rexton, Kyron and Chairman
# The name of Tivoli is inspired by the name of an Italian resort town.