SsangYong is introducing a five-year/250,000-mile warranty on its products sold in Northern Ireland. The move is part of a re-launch strategy for the brand and could be extended to the rest of the UK, the head of SsangYong's UK distributor told just-auto.

The Korean-based maker of light trucks is owned by Shanghai Automotive (SAIC) and Milan-based automotive distributor Koelliker took over the brand's UK distribution at the end of last year.

The new warranty is being offered exclusively by the firm's five dealers in the province and has the support of Koelliker UK.

Koelliker UK Managing Director Paul Williams said: "We are delighted that our Northern Ireland dealers have taken this initiative and we'll be watching closely to see how well it works with a view to possibly offering a five-year warranty elsewhere - or perhaps nationally. We know that SsangYongs are well made and solidly reliable. This will reinforce that message and give buyers great confidence."

Koelliker says that Northern Ireland is a traditionally strong market for SsangYong products.

In 2007, SsangYong sold 300 units in Northern Ireland, 63% ahead of the previous year, bucking the declining trend for the brand nationally.

In the whole of the UK SsangYong sold around 1,300 vehicles last year and Koelliker is aiming for 3,000 sales in 2008.

Where does Williams see SsangYong's UK volume in the medium-term?

"Within three to four years I'd like to see SsangYong in the UK doing 10,000 vehicles a year," he said.

In January this year the firm sold 117 vehicles in Northern Ireland.

"Okay, we're not talking big numbers and one month's performance shouldn't be taken too seriously, but SsangYong has traditionally enjoyed a bigger market share in Northern Ireland than we expect to see on a national basis," Williams told just-auto.

"It seems that buyers there are more interested in practicality, performance and value for money than the badge on the bonnet. SsangYong seems to work for Northern Ireland and it shows that we have the potential for considerable growth both there and in the UK as a whole.

"The key thing is to get the brand attributes known to the people who may be in the market for a robust and well finished SUV that also offers good value for money.

"It's not rocket science. You look at where the potential customers for your niche vehicles are and then you go for them rather than wasting time trying to appeal to groups that are unlikely to ever buy into what the brand and its products are all about.

"We now have a very clear idea of SsangYong's target market, how to reach them and what to say.

"We're also putting in place a very solid network of dealers who are properly motivated to help us grow in the UK, as this Northern Ireland initiative demonstrates."

Dave Leggett

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