DETROIT – China’s GAC Group is targeting late 2017 for the sale of its Trumchi-brand vehicles in the U.S., Wu Song, general manager of wholly owned subsidiary GAC Motor says.

Unveiling its new GS4 compact CUV for the first time here, Wu says the automaker is looking for a distributor with to begin U.S. sales within the next three years.

Wu says GAC likely would not take the 4-year-old brand nationwide to begin with, but would focus on certain states at launch.

The GS4 would be one of several models the Guangzhou-based automaker would launch within the U.S., but Wu, speaking through an interpreter, says a more upscale undisclosed vehicle now in development would head the 2017 lineup.

The Trumchi GS4, making its global debut at the auto show here, is about the size of a Hyundai Tucson and is powered by either a 1.3L or 1.5L turbocharged engine, mated to a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission. The new model goes on sale in China in April.

Wu says all of GAC’s vehicles are being engineered to U.S. and European safety standards. Most would be targeted against competitors from Hyundai-Kia and some Japanese brands.

GAC currently partners in China with Toyota, Honda, Fiat Chrysler and Mitsubishi , so it has access to technology from those automakers, as well as U.S. and European suppliers.

Wu says the automaker  employs facets of Toyota and Honda’s manufacturing systems to further ensure quality. The Trumchi brand has topped all Chinese domestic brands in J.D. Power’s Initial Quality Survey the past two years.

Trumchi sales in China last year totaled 116,000 units, and Wu says GAC is targeting 160,000 deliveries in the domestic market this year.

GAC already is selling in a handful of other countries, including the United Arab Emirates, Chile and Cambodia, and Wu says the automaker is considering whether to add assembly capacity in Russia, a move that may be put on the back burner for now due to economic instability there. A decision will come this year, he says.

This marks the second time GAC has exhibited outside the main floor of the North American International Auto Show, having come here for the first time in 2013.

dzoia@wardsauto.com