Kia Australia has been open in the past about its aspirations to join the increasingly lucrative dual-cab utility club, but now it has what appears to be a firm timeframe on when it will bring a work-grade load-lugger to market.
Speaking to journalists today, company spokesperson Kevin Hepworth said the intent was to bring a utility to local showrooms in 2022 – something with more tradie cred than the company’s K-series range of light trucks which were previously offered here.
“We’d like to be playing in that market, definitely, but it’s got to be the right [product],” Hepworth said.
With a little over three years until its self-imposed deadline, the company has time to ensure it’s got the product proposition right.
“Damien [Meredith, Kia Australia chief operating officer] has got pretty strong ideas on what he wants and what he doesn’t, and what he wants in this regard is a commercial vehicle, not a defacto family car. So it’s going to be a twin-cab, single cab, have a decent load area and capacity to tow.”
“You could either have a flat tray or a tub. It widens the appeal of the car,” Hepworth said, before indicating that Kia’s ute range would be pitched more at the everyman, not the foreman: “It won’t be $70K,” he said, “it will be, in Kia’s world, an affordable ute.”
But as to what this ute will look like, drive like, or even what name it will go by, those details are still far from set in stone. Chief among these unknowns is its powertrain, and while diesel dominates the light commercial utility segment right now, it appears Kia is keeping one eye on a potential migration away from diesel tech.
“This is one of the ponderables at the moment – where diesel is going to be in three or four years,” Hepworth said.
“Diesel is the ideal fuel for that kind of truck, but nobody is sure where diesel is going right now. It’s not flavour of the month in Europe… Americans never liked diesel. What happens going forward, I don’t know.”
“The engine would need to be of a capacity to be able to do that sort of work, and to get that sort of torque out of it, you’d need a turbo – for petrol – because otherwise you’d need a very big-capacity engine.”
There are few clues in overseas models too. Body-on-frame is a must-have, but the only vehicle that fits that description in Kia’s product portfolio is the Mohave large SUV (above), which is approaching retirement. Other large Kia SUVs, like the KX7 and the incoming Telluride (top) are of unibody construction, and thus not rugged enough for workhorse 4x4 duty.
It’s not just utes that Kia Australia wants to add to its range either. The company also wants to bring a successor to the Pregio commercial van to Australia – though as with the utility, there’s no suitable product available globally as yet.
“We’d like to get a light commercial range, not just the ute,” Hepworth said. “We’d like to get something in the Pregio style.”