In the last 20 years, Korean automakers Hyundai and Kia have gone from a laughingstock in the US with poor reliability and bad design to making legitimately competitive vehicles on par with the best in their segment. However, Korean automaker Ssangyong is a name that doesn't roll off the tongue for American consumers – it's practically unknown. The company wants that to change, and it is reportedly developing plans to export its range of crossovers to the US under a new name.
After a very rough patch in the early 2000s, Ssangyong sold a 70 percent stake to India's Mahindra and Mahindra in 2011, and it has been turning the company around ever since. It sold 145,649 vehicles in 2013, its best since 2002, and over half of them were exported. Now it is eyeing the North American market as its next conquest, according to Ward's Auto.
Ssangyong President and CEO Yoo-il Lee has a goal of selling 300,000 cars worldwide by 2016, and sees the US as a possible source of growth. The company is working with a consultant to come up with a brand name more appropriate for the US and is still in the planning stages for its future American product portfolio. Lee hints to Ward's Auto that the two most likely for the US are the new Korando crossover (pictured above) and SLV compact crossover that is coming in 2015.
Of course, as Mahindra itself learned when it tried to break into the US market with a range of inexpensive diesel pickup trucks a few years ago, it's not that easy. Having no dealers, no infrastructure and no technical team can be very difficult – thus far, it's turned out to be impossible for them. Lee is not saying that Ssangyong products will be on sale in the US by 2016, but he is certainly trying.