Make Room for a Third South Korean Automaker!


A South Korean automaker, Ssangyong, says it wants to join Hyundai and Kia in the U.S. market within three years.

While interesting and exciting, news like this is always taken lightly because entering the U.S. market is, well, really hard.

It’s especially difficult for a company with a troubled past, uncertain future, and hard-to-pronounce name. Ssangyong has been owned by South Korean company Daewoo, Chinese company SAIC, and is currently controlled by India-based Mahindra.

Ssangyong does make a robust line of CUVs and SUVs, a segment that is enjoying tremendous popularity here in the U.S. thanks to low fuel prices. On the surface, a line of inexpensive CUVs seems like an easy sell here. The company has plenty of obstacles to overcome, though, if it wants to succeed.

Ssangyong’s CEO Choi Johng-sik recently announced his intent to enter the U.S. market by 2019 and called entry here a “make or break” move for his company.

He also said Ssangyong would be in discussions with its parent, Mahindra, which happens to know a thing or two about attempting to sell cars in the United States.

Mahindra’s executive director, Pawan Goenka, doesn’t share the same sense of urgency. He has said that moving into North America is “somewhat on the back burner,” and thinks the more immediate concern is building Ssangyongs in China.

I have to admit that I’m on Ssangyong’s side on this one. The American economy is doing well and there always seems to be room for more economical CUVs and SUVs here. We tend to gobble them up.

If Ssangyong does succeed in entering the market, it would first be with the SIV-2 Concept, which was unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show. Autocar says,

Powering the concept is a mild hybrid powertrain, which features a 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine combined with a small electric motor, coupled to a lithium-ion battery. The 48V mild-hybrid set-up is claimed to offer “quiet and efficient driving, reduced CO2 emissions and silent running when idling and at slow speeds.”

There isn’t any word on U.S. pricing, but we would expect Ssangyong to come in below current entry-level prices to make itself more appealing.

Even if Ssangyong does manage to get Mahindra’s approval, it still must set up a dealer network, pass U.S. crash and emission tests, and somehow convince the American public that its cars are worth their hard-earned money.

And yes, a name change would probably have to happen as well.

Would you like to see Ssangyong sell cars in the United States?


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