Low cost carmakers mull over opportunities from connectivity

Low cost carmakers mull over opportunities from connectivity

Much has been written around the premium end of the car market’s adoption of connectivity and all it provides in terms of safety and convenience but what’s happening at the bargain end of the showroom?

And there can be few brands shipped into the UK today that epitomise, in most car buyers’ minds, value-for-money than the South Korean built SsangYong.

Here is a manufacturer attempting to repeat the success story written by its bigger Korean rivals Hyundai and the sub-brand Kia. Offering five-year unlimited mileage warranties across its range, SsangYong backs up its sales pitch with cars hitting the showrooms priced from just £12,950 ($19,610) for the new entry level crossover SUV, Tivoli.

This is a significant model for the carmaker because, while up until now SsangYong has forged a niche market producing large, rugged but cheap 4×4 SUVs beloved of the thrifty agricultural customer, Tivoli is a naked attempt at attracting the general family hatchback buyer.

Along with a sharp European inspired designed bodywork, it comes with premium safety features as standard including seven passenger airbags, LED running lights, cruise control and dual zone climate control. Even the range-topping ELX diesel 4×4 automatic with leather upholstery and full infotainment suite tips the scales at just £19,500 and should, quite rightly, give some higher priced existing brands a few sleepless nights.

And I got the chance to drive one through the challenging off-road course of the Millbrook industry vehicle testing ground in Bedfordshire. I can tell you the little SUV coped alarmingly well with steep inclines and drops on deeply rutted mud tracks, traversed gravelled bluffs tipped over on either side and waded well through pools up to wheel-arch height all on standard road-going tyres.

Yet, while the seven-inch colour touchscreen, Bluetooth connectivity and USB/AUX inputs all give a nod to premium technology, none of the current SsangYong range boasts full internet connectivity.

So is it too soon for the budget builders to be contemplating the marketing pull of IoT? Maybe, suggested Youngho Hong, deputy general manager SsangYong Motor Europe.

However, he added: “While connectivity is, at this moment, not available on our cars we are, of course, thinking about it to meet regulations that will be coming in [eCall] very soon.”

But he said SsangYong are aware that connectivity will require a marketing strategy that meshes with the brand’s place in the market and, without doubt, does not jack up the vehicles’ price tags beyond the area it feels the cars can compete against more established brands.

Hong explained: “We will be going for a certain solution that will suit our customers best. We have yet to decide on what connectivity platform we will be using in our cars but it’s clear that having a good connectivity package will be a differentiator in the market place and will influence customers’ choices of brand.

“We are holding periodic surveys especially in the European market with each separate national distributor through their dealership networks. When we need to hear the customer’s ‘voice’ over this issue we get this through the distributors.

“If there is any issue over some new technological development or direction it’s easy for us to get the opinions of our customers.”

But while no plans have been finalised for connectivity on SsangYong models, it’s not too far away said Hong.

“I think we will be able to launch a new connectivity package to suit our customer base sometime in the coming year.”

It’s safe to say that if the manufacturer can match a connectivity suite to its customer base as well as it’s screwing cars together these days, it’ll be a runaway success.


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