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Could Kia's HiLux-rivalling ute and a Land Cruiser-like SUV be enough for it to take down Toyota?

The Kia ute is expected to be a huge hit for the South Korean brand in Australia, but a large off-road SUV could also do well.

Toyota dominates new car sales in Australia, so much so that its closest rivals have given up trying to catch it.

Both Mazda and Hyundai have seemingly given up wanting to match Toyota’s volume, and instead are focusing on selling fewer cars for more margin.

Which is why Kia could be a dark horse and ultimately prove Toyota’s biggest threat in the next decade. The South Korean brand has been on a steady upwards trend in recent years and (as we’ve reported on previously) has several crucial new models coming in the near future.

A look at the numbers since 2015 make for eye-opening reading for the Kia’s rivals.

In 2015 the South Korean brand was very much Hyundai’s little brother, selling just 33,736 new vehicles for a 2.9 per cent share of the total market; compared to Hyundai’s 102,004 sales and 8.8 per cent share. Fast forward to 2020 and Kia notched 56,076 sales (a decline from 2019’s 61,503) and increased its market share to 6.1 per cent; while Hyundai sold 64,807 cars and had a 7.1 per cent share.

Kia is now as well-established as a mainstream player and sixth in the sales charts, and there’s no reason to think this trend will stop. After a solid 2020 amid the Coronavirus-induced sales slow-down, Kia has a promising 2021 ahead of it.

This year will be the first full year on sale for the Sorento, the Seltos continues to add sales to Kia’s tally and will be joined by the smaller Stonic. Plus, there’s a new Stinger, e-Niro and fresh branding to give the brand a boost.

Those may be enough to propel Kia past its nearest rivals, Mitsubishi and Ford, but if it wants to leapfrog Hyundai and Mazda to become Toyota’s biggest threat, Kia needs two new models – a ute to rival the Toyota HiLux and a full-size SUV that can compete with the Toyota LandCruiser.

Despite the company’s best efforts, Kia’s upcoming entry into the ute market has been well-documented. Due to launch in 2022 (or 2023 at the latest), Kia’s HiLux competitor could boast a powerful V6 turbo-diesel engine and locally-tuned suspension, as we’ve previously reported.

Those attributes combined with Kia’s seven-year/unlimited kilometre warranty could make it an instant hit. Even a moderately successful ute could add more than 5000 sales to Kia’s tally, but if it finds a similar audience to the brand’s SUVs it could add more than 15,000 units to the bottom line.

It’s a similar story when it comes to a potential LandCruiser rival for the South Korean firm. While there are no firm plans for a ute-based or rugged off-road SUV, Kia already offers the Telluride in the US – an eight-seater that would sit above the Sorento and was crowned the 2020 World Car of the Year.

It would allow Kia to continue its SUV expansion, following the successful Steltos and upcoming Stonic, which would continue to add new customers to the brand.

If Kia can rebound to its 2019 figures this year and go beyond with the arrival of the Stonic, it could push past 70,000 sales in the next year or two. Add a ute and a full-size SUV to the mix and it’s possible Kia could give Toyota something to think about by the middle of the decade.