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SsangYong gains ground after plant is revamped

June 29,2017
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Employees assemble automobile parts at SsangYong Motor’s plant in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi, on Wednesday. [SSANGYONG MOTOR]
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SsangYong Motor became the No.4 automobile maker in domestic sales in May, overtaking Renault Samsung after selling over 10,000 cars.

The automaker owes its recent success in part to its newly revamped assembly line, which has allowed it to keep up with rising demand for the new G4 Rexton.

The new large sports utility vehicle is SsangYong’s new arrow in the quiver as the company hopes to expand its market share beyond subcompact crossover vehicles.

Its flagship subcompact SUV Tivoli, launched in 2015, made the company the market leader in B-segment SUVs. Over 150,000 units were sold globally last year, helping the company turn a profit for the first time in 9 years.

“Tivoli helped us to become the leader in the small-sized SUV market and normalize our company,” said Song Seung-ki, managing director and head of production at SsangYong on Wednesday at the company’s main production plant in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi. “And now, we hope the new Rexton will become another cash cow for us and help us gain our pride back as an SUV maker.”

“Due to the launch of the G4 Rexton, we expect the operation of assembly line three will go well above 60 percent capacity in comparison to last year when we ran it at around 54 percent,” said Song, who said the company has sold some 2,800 units of G4 in June. SsangYong aims to sell about 20,000 units of G4 this year, or about 2,500 units per month.

The company remodeled the assembly line for the G4 Rexton to enable near-complete automation, a move to cut down on production errors and improve quality.

The company poured about 30 billion won ($26.2 million) into assembly line three - used for production of body-on-frame vehicles such as the G4 Rexton and Korando Sports - to prepare for the launch of the G4. The assembly line can manufacture about 25 G4s per hour at full capacity.

The shop is now equipped with an automatic error proof system which conducts tests on some 20 items to find any production errors. If any anomaly is spotted, the system alerts the workers to fix them before sending it to the next station.

Despite automation, the addition of the G4 the production line required a larger labor force. As a result, SsangYong re-hired some 26 workers who were let go in the past during court receivership, a move in line with the commitments the company made. SsangYong vowed that once conditions improve, it will hire back the dismissed workers step by step. A total of 278 workers are stationed at the assembly line at the moment.

Song said he expects to run the Pyeongtaek plant at near full-capacity in just a few years, increasing the possibility that more workers will be hired back.

“We are looking at 2019 as we plan to launch the c-300, the next model of the Korando C,” said Song. “We also have a development plan for face-lifted the Tivoli x150 by 2019. When these two models are added to our production, our yearly output will surpass 200,000 units.”



BY CHOI HYUNG-JO [choi.hyungjo@joongang.co.kr]