Since Mahindra doesn’t seem to be giving its self-destructed US distribution channel much attention, we couldn’t help but wonder what exactly is more important to the Indian firm than a little PR the world’s second [sigh] largest car market in the world. The answer, of course, is its acquisition of Ssangyong, a South Korean automaker known only to Americans as the maker of the legendarily ugly Rodius (to be fair, regular TTAC readers may also recall Ssangyong’s bid for world’s ugliest bankruptcy declaration). But the meeting point between Ssangyong and Mahindra isn’t styling, it’s diesel and four-wheel-drive.
Despite the fact that Ssangyong is still technically in receivership, there are still 25 dealers selling its products in Australia on the strength of the motto “We Live Diesel,” while Mahindra has 40 diesel-only Australian dealers. Recently Ssangyong revived the nameplate given to its original product, Korando, for a new model that reportedly launches in Australia later this year. Looking at the evolution of the Korando, from original CJ7 clone to the forthcoming model (which reportedly boasts a 174 hp, 337 lb-ft “German-designed” diesel engine, and available FWD or AWD), one can’t help but wonder where Mahindra sees itself going.
The second generation Korando (1996) was styled by the same guy who penned the Rodius. And thus, the awkward years began.
The Korando was updated in 2001. It didn’t help much.
The Mk II Korando is still built by TagAz for the Russian market. Evolution, as you can see has slowed to a crawl.
Ssangyong broke with its Korando roots by replacing the model in 2006 with this monstrosity, known as the Actyon. The trends at Ssangyong towards car-based baby utes, horrendous styling, and ultimately, bankruptcy, were clear by now.
And for good measure, here’s its cousin, the Actyon Sports.
With the exception of the show-car grille and lights, this is said to represent the new Korando that Ssangyong hopes will save its skin. In fact, Mahindra has just announced it will build this and possibly other Ssangyong models in India. And so the evolution of the Korando, from ruggedly handsome to awkwardly geeky to utterly lost, has come full circle to blandly handsome. Or at least that’s the plan…
Ssangyong’s present is still quite uncertain, as evidenced by its malfunctioning website and still-hideous product line. The next new Korando will help break Ssangyong’s rep for eye-watering styling, but it’s not as if mature markets like Australia and the US are desperate for more varieties of generic-looking crossover. Here’s hoping Mahindra keeps to its rugged roots better than Ssangyong did,