Korean brand, SsangYong, is returning to the Philippine automotive market, under its newest and exclusive distributor, SsangYong Berjaya Auto Philippines, Inc. (SBMP). Its sister company, Berjaya Auto Philippines, also under the Berjaya Group of Companies, has been the authorized distributor and importer of Mazda vehicles since 2013.

Helming SBMP as chariman is Francis Lee, an Executive Director of Berjaya Group of Companies, chairman of Berjaya Auto Philippines, and Executive Director of Bermaz Motor, the exclusive distributor of Mazda in Malaysia since 2008. Serving as Managing Director is former Mazda Director for Customer Service, After Sales and General Counsel, David Macasadia. Macasadia brings with him 25 years of experience in the automotive industry.

Berjaya's distributorship of SsangYong should come as no surprise as the Malaysian company had been in talks with the Korean brand since March of 2015. The company had proposed to distribute the Korean brand on condition that SsangYong support Malaysian assembly of key models, with distribution rights for the main ASEAN markets, among which is the Philippines. 

Berjaya hopes to secure Malaysian assembly and sales rights and for SsangYong's latest small crossover SUV, the Tivoli. It will be initially distributed to right hand drive markets by November this year.

For the Philippines, Berjaya Auto Philippines’ successful track record in revitalizing the Mazda brand is the key to this partnership. It is eyeing a 500-unit annual sales target, as the company plans to position the brand as the most premium of its Korean competitors. SsangYong Philippines will leverage its "solid all-wheel drive and diesel engineering credentials" to deliver a "full line-up of SUVs developed from strategic global partnerships," that "conform of to the latest EURO4, and higher, standards." Starting prices were hinted to be as low as P800,000.

Ssangyong Berjaya will be offering the Tivoli, Korando and Rodius initially for the Philippine market when it officially begins distribution in April 2016. It will open four dealers in the country; with two in Metro Manila, one in Visayas, and another one in Mindanao.

SBMP Managing Director Dave Macasadia

To assure existing customers of service support, SBMP Managing Director Dave Macasadia said that their dealer network will welcome all Ssangyong customers whether purchased through the gray market or former distributors.

"We will welcome existing owners to all our dealerships for servicing and support. They now have a home again for their Ssangyong vehicles," said Macasadia.

SsangYong is South Korea’s fourth largest automotive manufacturer, a fierce competitor of the Hyundai-Kia Group both in its home market of South Korea and abroad, had financial difficulties in 2010. A 70% share of SsangYong was acquired by Indian manufacturer, Mahindra & Mahindra Limited, in February 2011, after being named the preferred bidder in 2010 to acquire the bankruptcy-protected company. Mahindra's acquisition was approved by South Korea's Free Trade Commission. SsangYong along with Italian design firm, Pininfarina, are Mahindra's latest automotive industry acquisitions.

Pricing for SsangYong's models will be announced closer to the official start of operations.