PARIS -- Korean crossover and off-road specialist Ssangyong Motor Co. will enter the U.S by 2020 with two small SUVs, the brand's CEO says.
Gaining a foothold will be difficult but not impossible with the right models, Choi Johng-sik told Automotive News at the Paris auto show. "America is very, very competitive, so we need to build a good brand," he said. "That's why we're now preparing completely new products."
The smallest will be an upgrade of the Tivoli subcompact crossover, which has been a surprise hit for the brand in Western Europe. The second will be a new version of the Korando compact crossover that will use a version of the Tivoli's front-wheel-drive platform, Choi said. Both will be available with four-wheel drive. The Korando name goes back to 1983 and is a contraction of Korean-can-do, according to the company website.
The brand, owned by Indian automaker Mahindra & Mahindra, is also developing two turbocharged four-cylinder gasoline engines -- a 1.5-liter unit that will make 162 hp and a 2.0-liter unit rated at 220 hp -- for use in the U.S. vehicles, Choi said.
Ssangyong, originally a bus maker, started making off-roaders in 1974 when it entered into a short-lived partnership with American Motors to build Jeeps. It has focused on off-roaders ever since, many using Mercedes engines. Successive owners have struggled make the brand profitable, but Mahindra is coming close after buying the company in 2011. Choi said that Ssangyong will break even this year after failing to turn a profit since 2001.