SsangYong has increased the power output of its updated Musso pick-up, which it introduced in September 2021.

The Musso’s 2.2L e-XDi220 diesel engine now produces 201hp, a 20hp boost on the 181hp that was originally on tap.

Maximum torque of 420Nm is available at 1,600 to 2,600rpm.

The Musso comes in four versions, the entry-level EX, mid-grade Rebel, flagship Saracen plus the long-wheelbase-only Rhino.

The EX has a six-speed manual gearbox but all the others get a six-speed automatic transmission, a decision that SsangYong Motor UK, the Korean brand’s importer, says it took to match customer demand.

Kevin Griffin, managing director of SsangYong Motor UK, said: “We found automatic is what customers wanted and we could bring in more (from Korea) within the allocation allowed.” 

Griffin admits SsangYong has benefitted from the withdrawal of several competitors from the UK pick-up market, most notably Mitsubishi with its L200.

“Because of the demise of the L200 sales of the Musso have increased,” he said. 

He says the importer has taken on 20 former Mitsubishi dealerships and captured their business in the process. 

“They [the dealers] have a base of L200 drivers [customers] who can no longer get the L200,” Griffin said.

SsangYong Motor UK currently has a network of 65 sales and servicing outlets plus 12 applications in the pipeline. Griffin says he would like 80 to 85 sites in total to cover open points in locations such as the central belt of Scotland and north Wales. 

SsangYong Motor UK has imported the brand’s vehicles to the UK since 2011 and Griffin claims its strong relationship with the Korean parent company has seen the manufacturer prioritise shipments to the UK, enabling the importer to ride out the semiconductor crisis better than most through fulfilling orders and maintaining supply to its retail network.

SsangYong Motor UK is however, liable to pay emissions penalties on sales if they exceed the 1,000 units permitted to a small-volume manufacturer. Under regulations running until 2025 (when they will become stricter) if sales go above 1,000 the manufacturer or importer must pay €95 (£80) for every gram of C02 per km emitted above the target on each vehicle it sells within the year.

The current average target for LCVs is 147g of C02 per km, well below the Musso’s C02 emissions, which range from 220 to 245g/km across the model line-up. As a result SsangYong Motor UK restricted Musso sales to 1,000 in 2021 but has ambitions to grow if it can secure increased numbers of pick-ups from Korea.

“We would like to see 2,000 units if we get the production,” he said and a further 400 models arriving from Korea in July is a step in the right direction.

“The biggest advantage we have now is stock,” said Griffin.

Traditionally pick-up manufacturers have been fond of introducing special edition models to spice up their line-ups and this is one way they can increase sales numbers – because limited edition models qualify for Individual Vehicle Approval (IVA), and are not counted in the 1,000 unit quota.

But Griffin acknowledges SsangYong Motor UK needs electric technology to reduce average emissions and says the manufacturer plans to produce a plug-in Musso by 2024.

“It depends how far battery technology has moved on,” said Griffin who admits that as yet he has no guidance on the range or carrying capacity of any future electric Musso.

But bearing in mind commercial vehicles must have a payload of 1,000kg to be exempt from VAT, he stressed: “We need the truck to carry a tonne.” 

Griffin says SsangYong has a deal in place with Chinese electric technology specialist BYD to develop vehicles but adds that hydrogen is also a viable option for the future.

“Hydrogen for commercial vehicles will be the way forward,” he predicted. “[Delivering] range, carrying and towing capacity.”

Returning to the present state of the UK pick-up sector, Griffin said: “The choice is not as large [as it was] so more people will look at our vehicle.”

He admits SsangYong is not fashionable, which has tended to let the Musso slip under the radar – adding that badge snobbery is a factor in customers overlooking the truck.

The challenge for Griffin then, is “getting people to find a Musso, sit in it and drive it”.

Once they do, he claimed: “They tend to buy it.”