The pandemic appears to have claimed its first automaker.
Very few Americans would have heard of South Korean automaker SsangYong, as the company never offered vehicles here in the United States. A few years ago, rumors suggested that SsangYong wanted to sell vehicles stateside, but most car lovers here mostly know the company as the butt of a joke for building the Rodius, one of the ugliest cars in history. SsangYong is now making the news again, but it isn't good. The South Korean company just filed for bankruptcy.
The automaker made this move after failing to repay creditors. According to The Financial Times, this bankruptcy signals that the South Korean government will not bail out SsangYong or any other company with foreign backers. SsangYong was formerly owned by Daewoo (GM South Korea) but is currently 75% owned by Indian automaker Mahindra & Mahindra. South Korea's fourth-largest automaker mostly builds crossovers like the Korando, a rival for the Hyundai Tucson.
Mahindra took a controlling stake in SsangYong back in 2010 but has been unable to turn the company around in the past decade. Ssangyong's lineup at least looks massively improved under Mahindra ownership, with handsome SUV models like the Tivoli, Korando, XLV, and Rexton. The company even builds a pickup truck called the Musso.
South Korea has given out massive stimulus packages to companies affected by the coronavirus pandemic, but analysts believe SsangYong will not receive the same benefits. Bailing out SsangYong might cause a ripple effect where GM Korea and Renault Samsung also request stimulus money and the government simply can not afford to help every company.
2020 has been a tough year for SsangYong, with disruptions to its operations causing the automaker to default on $54.4 million worth of loan payments to Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, and BNP Paribas. SsangYong could be saved if Mahindra can find a new owner. A California-based company called HAAH Automotive Holdings could be in the running based on reports from local media in South Korea. HAAH imports Chinese vehicles into the US, like the upcoming Qiantu K50 electric sports car.