New cars: I don’t normally do them, except that it is good to drive some from time to time to see exactly what I’ve been missing.
So I was rather invigorated after driving a whole bunch of Ssangyongs. All of them - the whole lot. I rather enjoyed it. Almost as much as I enjoyed talking to Paul Williams, who runs the company in the UK.
He’s not your normal car company boss. He’s not a car guy. Nor is he a bean counter. He’s a normal bloke. That means he’s fun to talk to and understands car buyers completely.
Which brings me on to used cars. You see, Paul told me that some of the most successful Ssangyong dealers at the moment are solus ones.
That means they have a general used car lot with a new-car franchise attached. This gives a car salesman options. So instead of flogging a tired secondhand Land Rover Discovery, it isn’t that much of a mental stretch to get a car buyer to seriously consider a new Ssangyong Rexton with an unlimited-mileage, five-year warranty if he needs something to tow a caravan.
It is always important not to sell two cars side by side and make one of them look stupid - putting left-hand-drive models together with right-hookers, for example. Used cars, though, have a purpose. They represent value compared with a new car, except that Ssangyong is already a value brand. So there is a double positive right there, and that explains why they are doing rather well at the moment.
So I have to put myself in the position of a used car buyer who wants, say, a Land Rover Freelander but will make do with a Ssangyong Tivoli. That’s because the Tivoli looks good, goes well, tows plenty and starts at just £12,750 on the road.
Go to a used car dealer with £13k and you’ll get a 2011 Freelander 2. Be careful that it isn’t a two-wheel-drive model and you will get a 2.2 TD4 GS with around 70,000 miles on the clock. Hopefully, the dealer will stick a warranty on that, but it may only be a three-month bare-minimum job. So unless serious off-roading ability is needed, the reasonable residuals and peace of mind offered by a new Ssangyong make an overwhelming new-car case.
Value brands are where it’s at in the retail marketplace, be it a Dacia, a Great Wall or a Ssangyong. So am I going to buy a brand-new car? No. Would I recommend one to a relative, friend or reader? Yes, of course. If the circumstances are appropriate, it is hard to argue against the value brands. New cars are okay.