Pretty nice that Rexton, says the fishmonger

SsangYong is the small Korean manufacturer of mainly SUVs and MPVs, in its home country also of passenger cars that have no chance in Europe. The worldwide breakthrough of the compatriots Kia and Hyundai was not granted to the brand. It therefore had curious stylistic ideas, which testified to a fatal ignorance of Western taste codes.

Designs such as the Rodius, with its dormer-like attachment on the back, widely seen as the most unappetizing MPV of all time, were unaesthetic to the point of parody. Before someone shouts discrimination; the designer was an Englishman. I called him for an explanation and I understand that he didn’t feel like an interview. In the pub he sells the SsangYong job as his best sick joke ever.

Still, SsangYong was doing quite well here on the 4×4 commercial vehicle market. The fishmonger and mason community could live with those unyielding rough husks on gray license plates. The engines and gearboxes that SsangYong left over from an alliance with Mercedes guaranteed reliability. Unfortunately: Japanese, Germans and Americans delivered, also bpm-free, more current-looking SUVs and pickups for fair prices. The budget argument lost momentum.

What happens next behind the scenes, you can guess.

The SsangYong executives see sales plummet. They’re sending a scout to Europe to survey the situation. He returns with disturbing messages. It has shot the market vendors and carpenters in the head. They are no longer satisfied with 3,500 kilograms of towing weight and a historic Mercedes diesel. They faded at a rapid pace. They want leather, electric seats, navigation. Also have the Toyota LandCruiser, the VW Amarok, the Nissan Navara and real Mercedes. They also want design.


Western Sermon

It becomes too much for the CEO. SsangYong lecture on style? That the Actyon created the genre of the SUV coupe, from BMW to Mercedes plagiarized by all top brands? That with the Korando the only characteristic off-road vehicle since the original Jeep, while Jeep and Land Rover wasted their energy on cowardly white-collar SUVs? That arrogant western prattle about challenging design had to tolerate, while with the Rodius it built the only MPV that really provoked?

“Westerners think it’s the ugliest car ever built,” the informant whispers, now sure of his hundred lashes. Bad news is in a yes we canculture is a mortal sin, and just like us, messengers are always head over heels.

Then the phone rings. SsangYong is acquired by Indian automaker Mahindra. This makes 800 million available for product innovation. They can tackle their problem. The administrators of SsangYong go out with bags full of money. They consult a tanner, buy active safety systems; automatic emergency brake, traffic sign recognition, blind spot sensor, lane detection, hoppa. And they contract a designer who doesn’t buck. He draws wild, somewhat Korean arcs over the wheel arches, but roughly adheres to the style rules for tough high-rise buildings. The scout who has been rehabilitated out of emergency, the only one who has actually spoken to a Dutch fishmonger, inspects the result with his torso beaten to a pulp thick in plaster. He speaks from the heart, what can happen to him in his plaster armor? To his horror, he sees mouse gray leather. “Not good,” he moans. “Must be brown, diarrhea brown. cool. And there must be a work in it, a checkered pattern à la Bentley. Find them chic. And mood lighting. And LED headlight…, LED…” Then he falls down dead.

Out of respect, he was a good boy, the technicians grant his last wishes. A year later I pick up the new SsangYong Rexton from the importer in Antwerp and drive to the Netherlands. I have a diesel with 181 hp, seven-speed Mercedes automatic transmission and ‘part-time four-wheel drive’, Flemish for switchable. On the seats diamond-stitched brown leather that is also glued to the dashboard as a chic meat wallpaper. It drives excellently; a little too light in the steering wheel, a bit bumpy on speed bumps, but in any case civilized, also in terms of noise level. Only the stereo is disastrous. On the other hand, find me the mason who puts Mozart up in a Rexton. Good workhorse.

What to do? I’m going to get mackerel, off-road from village to village. Bravely, the warehouse smashes through puddles and potholes.

Does that cost?, my fishmonger asks.

Complete? On yellow a ton, on gray 42, bare 32 without 4×4. SsangYong knew a lot about the bpm for diesels with a G-environmental label. Cleaner engines on the way, I hear. Pretty nice, says the fishmonger. But his Nissan Patrol will hold for a while. The scout, who watches from the sky, would like to deport his fishing cart to Korea as punishment. Thankless dogs!