|Ssangyong’s SIV concept sport-utility vehicle stands on display during the press day of the Seoul Motor Show in Goyang, Gyeonggi Province, Monday. (Bloomberg)|
Ssangyong Motor has decided to abandon its name “Ssangyong” after almost 30 years, with the aim of shedding some of its negative brand image tainted by frequent ownership changes and labor disputes over the past decade.
“We are currently working on the rebranding process,” said a Ssangyong spokesperson. “We plan to renew both our name and emblem as early as before our entry into the U.S. SUV market in 2017.”
The carmaker has already started collecting opinions from employees, while conducting related surveys at its overseas operations. It will also invite public participation into the renaming process, though no specific plans have yet been settled, the company said.
India’s Mahindra & Mahindra, the carmaker’s current owner, is offering full support for the rebranding plan, the official added.
“But we are not considering including ‘Mahindra’ in our new name,” she said.
Ssangyong Motor CEO Lee Yoo-il recently hinted at the possible rebranding as the carmaker seeks to expand its presence in overseas markets, largely boosted by its recent sales momentum both in Korea and abroad.
Critics and company officials have long pointed out that the name Ssangyong, which means “double dragons” in English, is hard to pronounce especially for non-Korean speakers, while falsely suggesting the brand’s origin as Chinese.
Among other things, the carmaker is hoping for a departure from its troubled past.
If the name changes as planned, it would be the fourth time for the carmaker to adopt a new name since it started as Ha Dong-hwan Motor Workshop in 1954.
The company changed its name to Dong-A Motor in 1977 and it gained its current name Ssangyong when it was acquired by Ssangyong Group in 1986.
But the conglomerate, when suffering from financial problems, sold off the carmaker again to Daewoo Motors, now GM Korea, in 1998. Then in late 2004, Chinese carmaker SAIC acquired a controlling stake in the company.
Hit hard by the financial crisis and plummeting sales, the carmaker came under court receivership in 2009 that was followed by a massive layoff in the next year.
Since the carmaker was acquired by Mahindra & Mahindra in 2011, its car sales are showing some positive signs of recovery in recent months. Last year, the company posted 11-year-high record sales of 145,649 vehicles.
Boosted by the recent sales momentum on its home turf, the carmaker plans to further ramp up its offensive in all-important markets such as the U.S. and China in the coming years.
“Rebranding could pave the way for the carmaker’s fresh start. But it will also be financial burden as the whole process will cost tens of billions of won,” said an industry source on condition of anonymity.
By Lee Ji-yoon (firstname.lastname@example.org