A couple of years back, the global head of Kia Motors came to Australia for a series of meetings – and the local chief operating officer didn’t miss his chance to strike a deal.
Damien Meredith summoned his troops, cranked up the Xerox and hit global chief executive officer Ho Su Song right between the eyes with a comprehensive battle strategy to secure a line-up of new commercial vehicles to take on the Australian incumbents.
“We laid our cards on the table,” Meredith wryly said at the time.
Plans in place
And that plan has been in play for a number of years. Dimensions, sales volumes, demographic splits, sales projections, market trends and reams of other data will have winged its way to Kia HQ – and it won’t diminish until the first commercial vehicle hits the docks in Sydney.
It’s not just about the ubiquitous dual-cab 4x4 pick-up, either… Meredith has been around the sphere far too long not to play a longer game than that.
In fact, he’s confident that Kia can add 25 per cent to its annual sales number, projecting that the company could easily sell 20,000 4x4s and 4x2s here a year.
While the project hasn't yet officially been given the green light, the message has been heard loud and clear back at home base. Car companies move in five-year cycles, though, so expecting a ute to simply pop into existence is not logical.
It’s not the actual product, either – it’s about finding a place to build them.
Globally, Kia plants are running at capacity – witness the supply issues with the popular Seltos SUV (below) as proof - and to have the best chance of success in Australia’s ruthless car market, the ute will need to come from a country where it can be built at a competitive price.
While Thailand is the first place that springs to mind – almost 100 per cent of utes sold here today are built there – it’s worth remembering that Korea also enjoys free-trade status with Australia.
So what might a Kia dual-cab ute look like? WhichCar whipped up this rendering of what such a beast might look like.
Taking his cues from the new Telluride large SUV, one of our image-aces Alex has fused the unique nose onto a sharply angular bodystyle, adding Kia’s new logo to the tailgate for good measure.
While the automotive world will move away from internal combustion engines, it’s still a couple of decades away yet, and the Kia ute could potentially benefit from a product made in another part of its orbit.
The Genesis GV80 will lob Down Under next year packing a pretty special diesel under the bonnet, and one that could – potentially at least – form the basis of a potent pick-up powertrain should Kia get the green light from its parent company Hyundai.
WHICHCAR TV Genesis GV80 review
With outputs of 204kW and 588Nm, it would shoot to the front of the ute power pack. The only engine that currently comes near it is the current Volkswagen Amarok’s Porsche-sourced six-potter, which makes 180kW and 550Nm or 580Nm in special tune.
Given that the Amarok will transform into a Ford Ranger-based dual-cab over the next few years, though, we reckon that 157kW and 500Nm will be its new normal.
It’s not a foregone conclusion that the Kia ute will get to use the Genesis-spec engine; if it can’t be factored into the spec for the right price, then it simply won’t happen.
It’s a similar story for those people thinking about a Kia Stinger engine in a ute… theoretically, anything is possible, and the success of trick-up utes from Ford, VW and Nissan will be factored into Kia’s thinking.
Sense and sensibility
Consider, though, that a pick-up (the industry’s term, not ours) has to serve many markets and spec levels, from a humble tradie 4x2 cab-chassis right through to a leather-bound, big-torque boulevard cruiser.
It also has to be built with future safety and emissions regulations in mind, and it will also need to offer competitive towing and payload figures to even get a look-in Down Under.
We’re very keen to see how the Kia ute story develops, that’s for sure.