Korea’s third-largest automobile manufacturer, and one you may never have heard of, SsangYong, is gearing up for a U.S. market launch in the "near future."
The brand specializes in SUVs of various shapes and sizes, and is the only brand from Korea that currently produces a pickup truck. It is the third-biggest brand in terms of sales in its home market, behind better-known nameplates Kia and Hyundai.
While the brand may be somewhat unknown to North Americans, it has a broad reach for a car company that produces just 150,000 vehicles per year for the global market. It has a market presence in 127 countries, with more than 1,800 dealers representing the brand.
It will soon re-establish itself in Australia, a market where the brand has seen limited success in previous attempts. But while Down Under is a big continent, there’s an even more populous landmass that SsangYong has set its sights on: North America.
According to Dan H. Rim, Senior Executive Director of Export HQ at SsangYong, the brand is aiming to make its market debut in the U.S. imminently.
"We have plans to enter the U.S. market," said Mr. Rim. "We’ve been planning to get into the U.S. in the past few years, and we’re actually very close to getting into that market."
Every model in the range is available with all-wheel drive or 4-wheel drive. The brand may emulate Subaru, but it does so at a more affordable price.
Mr. Rim also cited the success of fellow Korean carmakers as part of the impetus for the company to push on, suggesting it has potential to stand apart from mainstream rivals on pricing, equipment and powertrains.
Diesel engines make up a good portion of the brand’s sales internationally, but there are a number of petrol engines, including a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder turbocharged unit with 220 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. A new 1.5-liter turbo-4 is coming with an expected 140 hp and 185 lb-ft of torque.
The approach to the U.S. market may well be different. As Mr. Rim puts it: "We are a smaller manufacturer, and we’re more agile than bigger manufacturers. And one thing we take very seriously is the voice of the customer and their local requirements."
SsangYong has asserted that it wants to become the first brand in the world to build an electric pickup truck, and that it is working on a range of new models to fill some gaps in its lineup.
Currently, there are five vehicles on offer. It has two small SUVs, one being the Tivoli, and the second being the Tivoli XLV, which is a stretched, taller and more practical version of the vehicle it’s based on. In the next size bracket up is the Korando (due for replacement in 2019), and its two largest offerings are the Rexton SUV and Musso pickup.
Additionally, the brand will have a new large SUV and a new large people-mover van by 2022.