Wednesday, August 24, 2016

SsangYong Moves to Build Advanced Engines

SsangYong Motors is remembered mostly for their tie-up with Mercedes-Benz producing products such as the MB100 (Istana) and Musso. Though that arrangement happened to span only three years (1991 to 93), it left an indelible mark on the company that remains with them until today. Moving forward from simple licensing agreements, SsangYong is inching towards a corporate vision of becoming the “most innovative and respected Korean automotive company”. Flush with cash from its acquisition by the Mahindra & Mahindra Group, SsangYong plans to expand its global footprint by selling 300,000 units globally.

Apart from investing in Korean-inspired design born from nature (Nature-Born 3-Motion), SsangYong is also pouring money into R&D to modernize their powerplants in order to make them globally competitive. Currently, the company centralizes the production of its engines at the Changwon Plant located in Kyungnam Province, some 40 kilometers west from the port city of Busan.

The SsangYong Changwon Engine Plant sits atop a 117,000-square meter property Inside, there are two plants. The first, Plant 1 started operation in 1994 and is responsible for producing the larger diesel and gasoline engines while Plant 2 came online 11 years later producing the next-generation mid-sized diesel engines. Another line was added in Plant 2 in 2014 to serve the requirements of the Tivoli for both diesel and gasoline applications. Apart from engines, the plant also assembles core driving units of its four-wheel drive system such as the rear axle.

Being a smaller scale carmaker compared to most, SsangYong relies on a flexible assembly line to keep costs as reasonable as possible. In order to achieve good economies of scale, the assembly line must be able to produce a wide array of engines. Currently, five different gasoline and six different diesel engines are produced there. An interesting note is that the fully-automated Plant 2 is highly flexible, allowing five different engine configurations to be built there side-by-side. The same can be said with the Tivoli line where both diesel and gasoline engines are assembled together.

That’s not to say they’re doing everything in-house. Again, to improve their economies of scale, SsangYong has tapped globally renowned suppliers such as the Japanese transmission giant Aisin to supply their 6-speed automatic (for the Tivoli) and even Mercedes-Benz for the 7-speed automatic.

Apart from cutting-edge technologies from both domestic and foreign partners, SsangYong relies on its network of 90 domestic and 47 foreign suppliers to keep the plant properly stocked enough for an annual production target of 430,000 engines (130,000 gasoline, 200,000 diesel, and 100,000 Tivoli engines). All these engines are capable of achieving up to Euro-6 emissions level.

Investments in making the plant efficient are certainly paying dividends for SsangYong. This year, Plant 2 celebrated the production of its one millionth engine bringing the total cumulative output of the Changwon Engine Plant to 2,460,000 as of August of this year. Coinciding with this milestone, the plant unveiled a new slogan, “Change for the Best” which outlines the company’s reaffirmation to make the Changwon Engine Plant the most competitive engine plant through quality innovation, productivity improvement, company/customer-oriented mindset, active communication, and improvement of cost competitiveness.

Taking the challenge even further, the Changwon Engine Plant is investing to develop high-efficiency engines for SsangYong. Seen as the company’s preparation to enter the North American market, particularly the USA, they are adding two new engines bringing the total production variants to 13.

The two new additions would be the G20DTR DI, a 2.0-liter turbocharged direct-injection gasoline engine with 225 horsepower and 343 Nm of torque. Debuting in September 2017, this will be fitted in the next-generation full-sized SUV (Y400) and pickup truck. The G15DTF GDI, a 1.5-liter turbocharged direct-injection gasoline engine with 163 horsepower and 255 Nm of torque, will makes its way to the production line in May 2019. This engine will power the next-generation Tivoli and Korando SUVs.

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