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Ssangyong plans new ‘design icon’ Wrangler rival

Korea’s 60-year-old 4x4 brand Ssangyong is planning to open a new era in its history with the launch of a high-design SUV to build its brand equity – and with which to finally launch itself into the North American market.

Now 80-per-cent owned by Indian car-maker Mahindra, Ssangyong is introducing its Tivoli supermini crossover into global markets this summer: a €280mil car that’s expected to treble its European sales volume and return it to profitability. But company insiders have told Autocar that there’s enough spare capacity on the Tivoli’s Korean production line for a third derivative of the car, to follow the long-wheelbase version already scheduled for 2016.

A production version of the XAV concept shown at the Seoul motor show this April is currently under consideration, with much more esoteric, retro-chic styling than the Tivoli, intended to reference the ‘new’ Korando of 1996: one of the firm’s most successful and distinctive products to date.

“Ssangyong is effectively Korea’s answer to Land Rover and Jeep. We need to make better use of the power of our brand,” one company spokesperson told us.

“The company has never cracked North America because it requires a huge investment,” our source continued, “and because the distributor model that we use in other territories wouldn’t really work in the USA. But a Wrangler-style high-design 4x4 could create the waves we’d need in order to make a mark over there. At the same time, it’d work really well for us in the UK and Europe at a time when building profile is absolutely key.”

The car would be likely to use the same 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol and diesel engines as the Tivoli, although sources suggest that a petrol-electric plug-in hybrid could be on the drawing board, with that powertrain technology having been shown on the XAV concept itself. The word is that a three-cylinder, 1.1-litre turbocharged version of the firm’s newly developed ‘eXGi’ petrol engine is also under development.

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