While car sales in China seem to be cooling off, and Europe continues to struggle toward economic stability, the U.S. auto market remains hot, hot, hot. That makes it a very attractive target for foreign car companies, and according to Auto News, South Korea's Ssangyong could be gearing up for an assault in the near future.
It wouldn't be entirely surprising. Though Ssangyong's home-country competitors, Hyundai and Kia, have recently stumbled in the U.S., they're still making headway. That alone could be an incentive for Ssangyong to give America a go.
What's more, Ssangyong is owned by India-based Mahindra -- the same Mahindra that burned countless bridges in the U.S. by backing out of an all-but-done deal to sell trucks here. Since that unpleasantness three years ago, Mahindra has been scoping out other ways to take on the American auto market.
Some thought Mahindra might do that by purchasing an ownership stake in Saab, but now, that option has been taken off the table. However, as we reported in April, Mahindra does have two facilities in Michigan for building and distributing GenZe-branded scooters and e-bikes -- and all bets are on the company expanding that lineup to include passenger vehicles down the line.
What might those vehicles look like? The first is rumored to be based on the Ssangyong Tivoli crossover. Sources suggest that the model will be a 4x4 offered in three versions: a 1.6-liter gas engine, a 1.6-liter diesel engine, and battery-electric vehicle. It's expected to compete with the Jeep Wrangler.
Would it sell? Obviously, we'd need to see the finished product, but at this point, if rumors are to be believed, we'd say the odds are 50/50.
That's because Jeep has a fair degree of brand loyalty, and that goes double for the Wrangler. People who love the Jeep Wrangler really love it, and that's in part because there's nothing quite like it. Ssangyong might be able to lure folks who've never owned a Wrangler or who aren't fans, but it's unlikely that they'd convert many Wrangler die-hards away from the brand.
That leaves Ssangyong to court the broad population of crossover shoppers, and the crossover market is hugely competitive these days. To succeed, it would either need to undercut everyone on price or offer something that the others don't. And it'll probably need to change its name, too -- maybe to Mahindra, maybe to something entirely new.
Have you had any experience with Ssangyong (or Mahindra) vehicles? Would you be interested in a Ssangyong crossover? How do you think it might do with U.S. shoppers? Share your thoughts in the comments below.