August 25, 2010

Jogging the memory

So what does this picture have to do with the one below left? Well, the dot jogging background left turns out to be John Steele, once the boss of Mercedes-Benz and that's my dog about to paddle in putrid creek water and  … you'll just have to read the item!
It was ages since I'd seen John Steele (see caption), who went on to a top job with the Giltrap organisation after Mercedes, and bumping into him on the trail provided an impromptu opportunity to catch up, while the dog got filthy. Back in the mid-1990s John asked me and Ray Stone (an auto industry identity who is a skilled off-roader) to do separate reports on whether Mercedes should import the SsangYong Korando – the vehicle in the top photo. Mercedes had recently taken on distributorship of the Korean brand in New Zealand and already had the Musso on its books. I don't know whether my report or Ray's had anything to do with the decision not to bring in the three-door, but when the distributor changed so did the decision. The new people saw it as a good alternative to the Jeep Wrangler, but it was not particularly successful, despite good pricing. In 2005, the base model with the 2.9-litre Mercedes-based turbodiesel cost $24,995 in manual and $28,995 for automatic. The Limited, with lots of extra gear including traction control, was $5000 more.

We got the second generation Korando, introduced in 1996. Korean production ended in 2006, which included several years of Daewoo ownership. Russia's TagAZ resumed production in 2008 as the Tager. Add an extra 'g' to the nameplate and it could have been ideal for New Zealand. Meanwhile, SsangYong is readying a new version to compete with such vehicles as the Hyundai ix35.

I thought the Korando was generally good, let down mainly by poor tyres. It would be interesting to see how it went with a decent set of rubber, like today's Kumhos – to maintain the Korean theme. And it was difficult to accurately place on tight tracks because, for seating and styling reasons, the driver had no real idea of where the front left corner was – not that my Jeep Wrangler Rubicon's any better.

1 comment:

  1. I thought long and hard about buying one of these when they were available, but the salesman was such a jerk I just walked away. In hindsight, he did me a favour. I ended up buying an import three door Pajero diesel and it's been fantastic.