Kia Australia is confident its Korean parent, Kia Motors Corp (KMC), has commenced development of a ute range to rival the Toyota HiLux and Ford Ranger, and expects a market launch in 2022/23.
Kia’s local arm has been crying out for a ute for years, as has Hyundai. These vehicles make up around 20 per cent of the market in Australia, meaning their absence costs both brands thousands of potential sales every year, most with high profit margins.
Given Kia continues (impressively) to grow sales in a dipping Australian car market — it’s now sitting in sixth place locally and closing in on fifth-placed Ford — such an injection of new customers would escalate the brand to new heights.
Right now the only Korean pickup out there to take on the established field from Japan, Europe and China is made by comparative minnow SsangYong, which is aggressively pushing said Musso to local buyers.
“The good news is there is a conversation [with KMC],” said Kia Australia chief operating officer, Damien Meredith, when asked for the umpteenth time by CarAdvice this week. “It’s still a way off, but we’re confident in the near future the group will have a light commercial range in Australia.”
Above: the big US-focused KCV4 Mojave concept pickup.
Meredith has requested a “full range”, meaning single- and dual-cabs, diesel and petrol, and rear-wheel or four-wheel-drive. “The full gamut”, he said. An element of Australian-market suspension calibration and probably hot weather/dust testing will feature.
Meredith also said Kia would shoot for “eight to 10 per cent” market share, which based on last year’s 4x2 and 4x4 ute sales would be equivalent to around 20,000 sales. Given Kia sold just shy of 59,000 passenger cars and SUVs here last year, that would add one-third extra to its volumes.
Kia has previously sold a couple of work vehicles in Australia, most notably the bargain Pregio van between 2002 and 2006 — at times the second most popular van on sale after the Toyota HiAce. Kia Australia sold 12,247 of them in total.
Above: a Sorento-based SUV. Source: 2020SUVs.com
It also offered the K2700 and K900 light trucks through the 2000s, ending in 2012. At various times more than one-in-five Kias being sold here were vans and light trucks.
But Meredith said these vehicles, which were far more basic than what its mooted new HiLux competitor will be, would have little relevance in convincing buyers of its bonafides. Instead it would leverage its design nous, cabin tech and reassuring seven-year warranty as a lure.
We reached out to Hyundai Australia for its comment, which it unsurprisingly declined to offer, although the company has never been shy about its wishes for a pickup to complement the iLoad van. It’s almost certain both companies are lobbying their respective head offices, regularly.