KIA is the latest brand to announce it has aspirations to join the highly lucrative light commercial market, conceding that a one-tonne ute is likely to be offered within its ranks as soon as 2021.
The South Korean brand has been watching from the sidelines as the popularity of dual-cab utes snowballed.
But Kia wants to be a wallflower no longer and is putting the blocks in place to ready its network for the arrival of its first high-riding ute in “two or three years’ time”.
Kia Motors Australia chief operating officer Damien Meredith said an exact arrival date was a long way off, but confirmed the company was preparing the ground for a one-tonner in local showrooms.
“We’re hopeful that something will happen in the light commercial range in a few years’ time,” he said. “There’s still a bit of homework being done at head office regarding it, but we’d like to think it will happen and we’ll be ready when it does.”
Meredith explained that high-ranking managers within the global office were unable to ignore the growth of dual-cabs and light commercials anymore, and shifting cultures would drive the cause for one-tonners.
“The senior executives at KMC are out and about in the markets, they travel far more and visually they see what’s happening out there,” he said. “They understand that light commercial vehicles are recreational. The market is moving to that type of vehicle. Let’s just hope that we’ve got something there in two or three years’ time. I think it will be that far away.”
A jacked up, all-terrain Kia may be hard to imagine at this stage, but the company’s Stinger high-performance, rear-drive sedan is undeniable proof the company is capable of breaching dramatically different markets to its traditional staples – and successfully so.
Meredith said the company’s growing influence in Australia would help the cause and allow Kia to compete in the market, along with a business case from other strong global markets.
“As the business grows that you look after, your share of voice gets higher. I’m not sure they will be planning the next five years on what I say now in product planning but one would hope a light commercial range will happen. We think we can get seven percent of that light commercial range relatively quickly.”
Even if Kia’s one-tonner arrived tomorrow, the brand is still late to the tradie party, but Meredith said it was important to attempt to enter new markets at the right time.
“They (competing ute bands) might be doing the hard work in that segment, but we’re doing the hard work in regards to the brand and growing the carpark and making Kia more mainstream. It’s not just about waiting and waiting and then kick off.
“When and if a light commercial range does happen we’ve got the dealer network ready to go. That’s our plan.”
When asked if the market would be too crowded by the time a Kia offering is ready to roll, Meredith used Hyundai’s Kona compact SUV as an example of a vehicle that arrived late to a busy segment but found a strong following.
“Kona came in and sells about 800 a month so that seems to be going okay and I don’t think it’s affected the others too much.”
A Kia ute would have its work cut out in the fearsome one-tonne segment, bumping gloves with the resoundingly successful and venerable Toyota Hilux, whose variants have already found 12,634 homes to the end of March this year. Snapping at its heels is the Ford Ranger however, with a respectable 10,868 registrations to its name for the same period.