SEOUL–India’s Mahindra Group plans to enter the U.S. and China, the world’s two biggest auto markets, with high-end electric vehicles to be made by its Italian auto-design affiliate Pininfarina SpA, the auto giant said.
“We’re exploring right now the potential of building an electric supercar, which will be branded Pininfarina. Certainly, we’re looking to sell it in the U.S.,” Anand Mahindra, chairman of the Mahindra Group, said in an interview.
Mahindra will also will look to enter China, the world’s No. 1 auto market and a good market for high-end performance cars, through Pininfarina, he said.
Mr. Mahindra is in Seoul for the 2017 Seoul Motor Show.
Mahindra Group, a conglomerate that makes airplanes, cars and tractors, acquired the Italian auto-design specialist in 2015 in a EUR25.5 million ($28.1 million) deal to boost its automotive credentials globally.
Best known for a historical relationship with Ferrari NV, Pininfarina’s designs have long been copied by other global auto makers.
Mr. Mahindra said the group aims to enhance its investments and presence in the U.S. largely through its South Korean auto unit, Ssangyong Motor Co.
“Competing in the U.S. is like the old Frank Sinatra song that if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere,” he said. “So when you sell cars in the U.S., it forces you to be the most competitive.”
He said the auto group would “double its bets” in the U.S. but declined to reveal specific amounts.
Global auto makers have announced increased investments in the U.S. as President Donald Trump is raising demands that more goods be made in America.
“President Donald Trump’s policies are not global, but inward looking,” Mr. Mahindra said. Still, he said, Mr. Trump’s promises will help the American economy strengthen.
Hyundai Motor Co. said in January that it would invest up to $3.1 billion in its U.S. manufacturing facilities and that it is considering building a new plant there, joining other auto makers in highlighting investment plans after Trump criticized the industry.
Ssangyong Motor Chief Executive Choi Johng-sik said Thursday that the company is preparing for a U.S. entry but that it would take at least three years to complete its decision.
More immediately, Mr. Choi said, Ssangyong is considering expanding its presence in China by building a manufacturing plant in the world’s largest market and localizing its products there.
He said the company would complete a decision on that by the end of the first half.
Ssangyong, which specializes in sport-utility vehicles, signed an initial agreement with China’s Shaanxi Autombile Group Co. in October to start a joint venture.
Shaanxi Automobile is China’s fourth-largest maker of heavy-duty trucks by output.