SsangYong Tivoli UK-07

Berjaya Auto (BAuto) is close to securing rights to be the exclusive distributor of SsangYong vehicles in Malaysia, The Edge reports. BAuto, the parent company of Bermaz Motor, is synonymous with Mazda in Malaysia.

In January, BAuto announced that it will be reviving the SsangYong brand in the Philippines via SsangYong Berjaya Auto Philippines. It plans to introduce the Korando, Rodius (Stavic) and new Tivoli in the fast growing market and the target is to sell 500 units by the end of 2016. BAuto is also the Mazda distributor in the left-hand drive ASEAN market.

It has been reported in the Philippines that BAuto has secured the rights to distribute SsangYong vehicles in all main ASEAN markets, and that assembly of key models in Malaysia was a condition for BAuto getting the distributorship.

SsangYong Stavic Facelift-10

For that, BAuto is eyeing Oriental Holdings Bhd’s assembly plant in Tampoi, Johor, The Edge’s report added. BAuto, currently going through a management buyout, could not be reached by the business publication for comment. The company’s Mazda cars are assembled at the Inokom plant in Kulim, Kedah.

BAuto has been widely credited with the turnaround of Mazda’s fortunes in Malaysia since taking over the brand in 2008, although we think that attractive models from the Zoom-Zoom brand pushed itself too. Will the company’s “magic touch” extend to SsangYong?

It’s a very different kettle of fish, the Korean 4X4 brand now under Indian ownership after Mahindra & Mahindra bought over the ailing company in 2011. Since then, not only has SsangYong yet to turn in a profit, it recorded a loss of 61.9 billion won last year, 21% worse than in 2014. Overseas sales accounted for 26% of the company’s revenue in 2015. It was 50.3% in 2012.

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In Malaysia, SsangYong is under the stewardship of Competitive Supreme, which also held the MG Rover and Citroen brands in the past. Last year, it sold just 109 units and sales have got worse – the brand failing to get off the mark in Q1 2016 with zero cars sold. A long way from the glory days of the Rexton.

“There are some brands in the industry that you do not touch and SsangYong is one of them. SsangYong is a very weak brand. You will need to pump in a lot of money to make it work. Unless the principal is putting in the money for it, it’s difficult to see how the brand can be revived,” an industry observer told The Edge.

Another winner or a task too far for BAuto?