February 23, 2015 10:27
Korea's smallest automaker Ssangyong Motor is on an upswing after the new Tivoli small SUV proved a hit with customers.
The company was sold twice in the span of a decade as the cash-strapped automaker struggled to find buyers for its aging models.
The Tivoli has a 1.6 liter gasoline engine and is the first new model Ssangyong has rolled out since it was bought by India's Mahindra Group in 2011.
Ssangyong invested W350 billion (US$1=W1,105) in developing the Tivoli even as it posted around W325 billion in operating losses between 2011 and 2014.
The investment seems to have paid off, and the company sold more than 95,000 Tivolis in the first month since its release, a quarter of the targeted annual sales of 385,000. It was the best sales performance since the Rexton in 2001.
Customers will now have to wait around two months to get their hands on a Tivoli as the company races to keep up with demand.
This could allow the automaker to rehire some of the 2,100 workers who were laid off in 2009. Already production lines at its main factory in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province are operating 21-hour days even on weekends to meet demand.
The company plans to export the Tivoli to Europe and China after showcasing it at the Geneva Motor Show next month.
In 2013, Ssangyong rehired 450 workers who were put on unpaid leave in 2009. Mahindra Group chairman Anand Mahindra said during a visit to Seoul earlier this month, "I assure you that whenever the time comes for fresh recruits, our top priority would be to look at those who lost their jobs in 2009."
One Ssangyong worker said, "The company has been on the verge of bankruptcy, and its revival will create jobs and help support the region's economy. I hope strong sales of the Tivoli mean that our colleagues can return."
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