The C200 is likely to be delayed; Frankfurt appearance doubtful
6 August 2009

The future of Ssangyong remains in doubt as the occupation of its factory in South Korea continues.

For the second day running, violent clashes have occurred between police and around 500 workers who have barricaded themselves in the paint shop at the factory in Pyeongtaek, 43 miles south of Seoul.

A Ssangyong source told Autocar that the future of the company was in doubt for as long as the occupation continued.

“Ssangyong’s future is uncertain,” said the source. “Until those people in the factory are out, production can’t go on and things are unable to return to normal.”

Ssangyong entered Korean court-approved bankruptcy protection earlier this year, a process similar to the one recently undertaken by General Motors and Chrysler in the US.

Entering court protection has protected Ssangyong from its creditors and it must submit a new business plan by 15 September. Part of its plan has been to cut costs, which included laying off 36 per cent if its workforce.

Around 2600 accepted this, but 1000 workers, backed by the strong Korean unions, barricaded themselves inside the factory 10 weeks ago and the stand-off is still going on. South Korean police commandos have been dropped by helicopter onto the building in a bid to end the siege.

“Over time, the shut-in has affected production and Ssangyong is now at the stage where it has ordered them out but they are not coming out,” said the source.

“It will take weeks to get back to normal. The longer the situation goes on, the more difficult it becomes.”

Creditors have filed a petition in Korea asking for Ssangyong to be liquated, but the source said this was political pressure and would be removed when the siege ended.

The siege has yet to directly affect Ssangyong in the UK but it is likely to in the future.

“We’ve had good stock levels in the UK and will have enough cars to last us until around the end of September, but obviously Ssangyong is not making cars at the moment and probably won’t be able to for some time,” said the source.

“But it is affecting our future plans. We can’t plan for the future while this goes on until this problem is resolved.”

Ssangyong had been set to unveil a production version of its C200 crossover at the Frankfurt Auto Show in September and it was supposed to secure the firm’s future.

“The C200’s appearance is unlikely at Frankfurt, but we haven’t heard anything official yet,” said the source.

“We know they have the C200 production lines and R&D centre back in Korea so we are hopeful it will be back as soon as possible. It was supposed to start in September, but I would be surprised if they could still do that.”

Officially, the C200 is supposed to go on sale in the UK in March next year, but the source said he would be surprised if this was still possible.

“There is strong feeling that Ssangyong can still survive with the C200, but nothing is certain while this goes on,” said the source.

Mark Tisshaw

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