Former Kia UK chief Paul Williams has been appointed to spearhead a relaunch of SsangYong, the Korean car marque that went into administration in the UK at the end of last year.
Williams, who stepped down as Kia UK managing director in 2006 (MW August 31, 2006), joins Koelliker UK, the new importers and distributors of SsangYong vehicles in this country, as managing director. Since leaving Kia, he has been working on the European launch of Chinese car brand Landwind.
Koelliker UK is part of Gruppo Koelliker, one of Italy’s leading private automotive businesses. It handles the importation and distribution of SsangYong in Italy, Austria and Hungary and is the distributor for Kia and Hyundai in Italy.
Koelliker has acquired certain assets from SsangYong UK, including vehicle and parts stock and offices in Hampshire.
Williams is close to appointing a number of senior executives, including a top marketer, to join the new team. It is understood that 15 staff from SsangYong UK will keep their jobs but that none of the previous management team will remain. It is thought that former managing director Ken Forbes and former commercial director David Coop left the company last year.
SUV specialist SsangYong, which is 51% owned by Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation, sold just 1,323 cars in the UK last year – down almost 35% on 2006.
Williams – who spent four years at Kia UK, increasing sales from about 12,000 to 42,000, and is also a former UK managing director of Daihatsu – says: “We start with a clean sheet for 2008. Just about everything will change.”
Williams was replaced at Kia UK by Toyota marketer Paul Philpott in February last year.