FOLLOWING its successful comeback launch in Manila early this year, SsangYong Motors is keen on expanding its presence in the booming cities of Visayas and Mindanao.

By 2017, David Macasadia, managing director of SsangYong Berjaya Philippines (SBP) sees the brand having a strong presence in Davao, Cagayan de Oro, Bacolod and Iloilo. Last Saturday, SsangYong entered the Cebu market through the Borromeo-led Joseon Motors Company Inc.

The firm unveiled SsangYong’s showroom along Gorordo Ave. in Cebu City, which showcases the brand’s four car models, Rodius, Korando, Tivoli XLV and Tivol, which all conform to the latest Euro4 and higher standards.

“I am very confident of the Cebu market in the sense that Cebuanos like to be a bit different at times and I think these products really offer individuals and families alternatives for being passionate about being unique.

You can see the design, the cutting-edge technology, it is very forward-looking,” said Marco Gabriel Borromeo, the managing director of Joseon Motors.

He also cited the strong overseas remittances, high purchasing power of consumers working in high-paying industries and the flexible payment schemes and low interest rates as other factors that would attract more Cebuanos to buy new cars.

Macasadia said that entering the Cebu market is a good business move, with Cebu being the center of trade and commerce in the Visayas as well as an entry point to other emerging cities in the south.

He added that the company is also banking on the Cebuanos’ expanding middle-income class and booming industries to support the company’s expansion plans across the country.

SsangYong Motors is South Korea’s fourth largest automotive manufacturer. It has over 60 years of vehicle manufacturing heritage.

A 70 percent stake in SsangYong was acquired by Indian manufacturer Mahindra & Mahindra Limited in 2011.

Macasadia said the Korean car brand is going to take advantage of the Philippines’ growing automotive industry.

He said that the car’s comeback to the country came at the right time when the industry keeps logging double-digit growth year on year.

The official added that SsangYong’s return to the country is also timely as the Asean-Korean Free Trade Agreement (AKFTA) has lowered import taxes on Korean-made vehicles from 20 percent to five percent this year.

Macasadia said this would allow them to market the vehicles at a more competitive pricing.

Existing SsangYong car owners will also benefit from the brand’s return to the country as its dealership network will extend its car services even to SsangYong cars purchased through former distributors or through the gray market.

While SsangYong is still unfamiliar to most Filipinos as of the moment, Macasadia said “the facts speak for the brand” and cited its history, global presence and expertise in car manufacturing.

“We are not yet in the mainstream but we are a challenger brand. We have better and innovative styling with engineering technology at par with the popular car brands and our vehicles are also competitively priced,” said Macasadia. “SsangYong is the best alternative car brand in the market today.”

SsangYong has been in the automotive manufacturing business for 65 years in Seoul, South Korea. It claims to have made inroads in major automotive hubs in over 115 countries, particularly in the sport utility vehicle (SUV) market.

While a new contender in the local auto market today, Macasadia said the company projects modest growth this year. He said they are targeting to sell at least 50 units a month.

With a consistent increase in monthly sales, the Chamber of Automotive Manufacturers of the Philippines, Inc. (Campi) and Truck Manufacturers’ Association (TMA) have revised their target to sell 370,000 units sales by the end of 2016.

Automotive sales had reached 261,370 units from January to March this year.

“With continued strong market demand and enough supply and new model introductions during the 6th Philippine International Motor Show in September, third quarter sales remained strong.

We expect sustained growth as we enter the fourth quarter,” Atty. Rommel Gutierrez, president of Campi, said in a statement.