With a name meaning “double dragons,” Ssangyong Motor Company, or Ssangyong Motor, is a premier auto manufacturer in South Korea. In business for 59 years, the company’s unwavering dedication to advanced styling and optimal performance make it a worldwide favorite. Headquartered Seoul, South Korea, Ssangyong markets its vehicles all over the globe save North America. In February 2011 Mahindra & Mahindra Limited acquired a 70% share of the company, allowing Ssangyong to expand its global presence.
Founded in 1954, Ssangyong began as two separate companies, Ha Dong-hwan Motor Workshop and Dongbang Motor Company, established in 1954 and 1962, respectively. The companies merged in 1963 to become Ha Dong-hwan Motor Company, which began building jeeps, buses and trucks for the United States Army the following year. In 1976 a variety of special-purpose vehicles were created, and the name changed again in 1977 to Dong-A Motor. That same year the company was taken over by Ssangyong Business Group, which become Ssangyong Motor in 1986. Ssangyong acquired Panther Westwinds, a United Kingdom-based specialty car company, in 1987.
In the 1980s Ssangyong “entered the era of four-wheel drive,” and partnered with Daimler-Benz AG in 1991 to develop an SUV featuring Mercedes-Benz technology. The result was the SsangYong Musso, originally sold by Mercedes-Benz and eventually by Ssangyong. At the turn of the century the company established itself as a leading SUV manufacturer and created a full line of vehicles, including the Rexton, Kyron, Actyon and Korando. Ssangyong’s Chairman W vehicle also become South Korea’s leading car in its class and remains on par with luxury vehicles around the world.
Eco-friendly diesel technology via development of an “advanced, world-class common rail engine” has strengthened Ssangyong’s competitive edge. The compact SUV Korando is Ssangyong’s first front wheel drive monocoque vehicle.
Ssangyong continues to focus on “existing and mature markets,” as well as emerging markets in Eastern Europe, Central America, India and China. The company is also taking advantage of its “strong SUV product range” and looks to increase its presence as a competitive SUV manufacturer in technical cooperation with Mahindra & Mahindra.
The flagship model of Ssangyong and South Korea, the Chairman W is the first luxury car equipped with a 5,000 cc V8 engine and 7-speed automatic transmission. Now in its second generation, the Chairman offers “prestige benefitting a CEO” and functions as a full-size luxury sedan. Available in six trims and as a limousine, the car’s electronic air suspension system features a noise-and-vibration-reducing rebound coil and an extended rear passenger space. Its front and rear have their own screens for controlling the entertainment system. The car’s electronic stability program includes built-in sensors comparing “driver input with actual vehicle behavior” and makes adjustments as needed when instability is detected. Driver and passenger air shower vents are among the many other features the Chairman W provides.
Ssangyong currently manufacturers seven car models, including small and mid-size SUVs, a compact SUV, and sports truck. The company also produces 29 concept cars.
The current line includes the Chairman W (luxury sedan), Rexton W (luxury SUV), Kyron (mid-size SUV), Korando (compact SUV), Actyon (small hatchback SUV), Actyon Sports (sports truck) and Rodius (MPV).
Concept cars include the Istana Camera Ven (camera van with a semi-high roof), and the Korando RFT Top (specialty jeep). With so many unique options to choose from, there’s truly a Ssangyong model for every driver.
Ssangyong has produced a variety of diverse vehicles in the past 54 years, beginning with jeeps, buses and trucks.
The Ssangyong Kallista, produced in 1992, was later “rebadged” as the Panther Kallista, while the Korando Family vehicle, based on the Isuzu Trooper, was in production from 1998 to 1995. Istana, the licensed copy of the Mercedes-Benz MB100, was produced from 1995 to 2003. Musso and Musso Sports were in production from 1993 to 2005 and 2002 to 2005, respectively. The sports vehicle was replaced by the Actyon Sports option, and Musso the Kyron.
Publicly notified as a company in December 1962, Ssangyong become Korea’s first exporter of large buses to Vietnam in 1967. It was registered as a corporation five years later, and began developing hard and soft-top jeeps. In the late 1970s four, five and six-passenger jeep models were produced, and by the 1980s Ssangyong was creating taxi and snowplow jeeps, as well as dump trailers.
Overseas expansion started in the mid-80s and lasted through the early 1990s, with vehicles exported to Northern Europe, Japan and Libya. The company underwent corporate restructuring at the turn of the century and established an independent sales network in January 2000. Ssangyong signed an export contract with Russia in June 2010, and the Ssangyong Korando won the “extreme cold weather” Northern European Race in January 2012.
Celebrated as “the most innovative and respected Korean automotive company,” Ssangyong is poised to become a global SUV manufacturer.