Mahindra Strikes Right Chord As SsangYong Tivoli Is Big Hit In South Korea

Mahindra’s leadership walked a tightrope with the SsangYong project codenamed as ’X100’ that lasted for 42 months and 13 days. It was a kind of do or die situation for the company because its newly acquired SsangYong Motors was at the verge of bankruptcy and its fleet of cars totally sucked. The project did not just end up creating a really appealing car, but became almost historic. The SsangYong Tivoli compact SUV, the first model created under Mahindra & Mahindra ownership, is a big hit in South Korea, ushering SsangYong Motors into a whole new era.

The news this week is that SsangYong, a 70% owned subsidiary of our Indian auto giant, is recruiting 300 new sales personnel for its Korean dealerships after recent sales upsurge. This is the first time the company recruits staffs in large numbers since 2009 when it was was put into receivership and auctioned. It also plans to increase dealership showrooms from existing 180 to 200 by the end of this year, to meet the rising new demands for its products.

This recent bloom is solely attributed to the success of Tivoli compact SUV, which was launched early this year in Korea and got global premiere at the 2015 Geneva Motor Show early this month. Korea Herald reports that a total 9,500 orders were received for the car in the first one month, which is more than one-quarter of the company’s target of 38,500 units in the first year. The car is already running on a considerable waiting period.

Tivoli is the first car designed under the leadership of Mahindra & Mahindra Limited, which acquired the company in 2011. The project costs $310 million for the development, and is significant to the company’s long-term strategy. One could realise its importance when Pawan Goenka, the Chairman of SsangYong, says “Tivoli is to SsangYong was Scorpio was to M&M at the time of its launch”. Tivoli is going be a key catalyst in scaling up the company’s annual volumes to at least 2.5 lakh units to expand their reach in their markets and generate investments for future products.

SsangYong Tivoli, named after the lovely Italian town of Tivoli, in Rome, is certainly a leap forward in terms of SsangYong’s standards, the company often accused of making some of the ugliest cars of the planet! In a sense, the Tivoli appears like borrowing visual elements three cars that are sold in Korea – Chevy Trax, Mitsubishi Outlander, and Kia Soul. I particularly like the black-and-red scheme of the show car pictured below, with its blackened pillars and chunky alloys.

At present, the new baby SUV is offered with a 1.6-liter petrol drivetrain producing 126 horsepower. The diesel version with a 1.6l motor is expected by June this year. As of now, the Tivoli sold only in South Korea, while it will be available in the European markets by May this year. An all-wheel drive version is announced to reach showrooms in July. There is hardly any plans for Mahindra to bring this crossover to India, but this development will impact the new Mahindra cars currently under development.

Korean Industry sources predict that the SsangYong Tivoli’s market prospective is to grow better, as the domestic SUV market is blooming in the past couple of years. SsangYong, with its formidable name to reckon with in MUVs and SUVs two decades ago before it began stumbling with series of ownership changes, is trying to come back on track by making its products modern and well, competitive. Just few days back news reports hinted at a new SUV lineup and a possible SUV from the company’s only sedan Chairman.

So yeah, here is an another instance to prove the efficacy of Indian ownership after Tata Motors gave a new life to Jaguar-Land Rover (JLR). This union of Mahindra and SsangYong is awe-inspiring, a kind of “made-for-each-other”. Not because both the companies made horrible MUVs in the past, but their obsession with MUV-SUV kind of products gives new opportunities for both of the developing companies to go further.

Photo credit: AutoBlog, Motorionline, Sixthgear

Dhiyanesh Ravichandran

Editorial consultant (Automotive and Technology), academic, and blogger based in India. He can be reached at

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