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Kia set the automotive world on fire this month when it finally confirmed that work had officially begun on a workhorse ute family that could arrive in Australia as early 2022, at last giving the brand a genuine answer to the dual-cab dominance of cars like the Toyota HiLux, Ford Ranger, Nissan Navara, Mitsubishi Triton and Holden Colorado.
So as the clock ticks down to the brand whipping the covers off a concept version of its new ute - which will likely occur within the next 12 months or so - we thought we’d collate everything we know so far so you're entirely up to date.
Here are the five reasons we're excited about Korea's incoming ute.
Kia's COO Damien Meredith confirmed to CarsGuide that the Hyundai was expected to arrive in Australia around the same time as Kia’s version, though he was hopeful his would be the first to arrive.
“It’ll be close,” he told us.
While Hyundai is yet to comment publicly, the brand will no doubt be doing backflips behind closed doors, with executives there making no secret of how much they've wanted a proper ute family in Australia, having told our media that "they couldn’t push any harder” for a HiLux and Ranger rival.
Like Kia, Hyundai’s version will be a true workhorse family, spanning the engine and body style variants needed to prove a success here.
And Australia isn't the only market Hyundai is targeting, with Australian executives confirming the product would need to be “international” to get final approval.
It now appears as thought that final approval has been granted, though the arrival date seems to have been pushed back slightly. While Hyundai was initially targeting 2021, our chat with Kia suggests we should be focused on 2022 or even 2023.
“To have a competitive pick-up in that space would be positive. We’ve already proven that Hyundai commercial vehicles work well, in the form of the iLoad and the iMax. They’re selling well, they’re strong vehicles,” Hyundai’s Bill Thomas has told media.
“We’ll have to wait and see, but we’re very excited by it.”
You can probably still remember the collective gasps heard across Australia when Hyundai unveiled the Santa Cruz concept at the Detroit auto show in 2015. Dubbed a “lifestyle" vehicle, it was built on the ix35 SUV platform, and was lacking in things considered critical by our dual-cab buyers, namely towing, payload and ground clearance.
While that car has reportedly been green-lit for production, the ute both brands are now talking about now is something else entirely. As such, we can expect the proper workhorse credentials and model lineups required for success in our market.
If you take the ridiculously successful Toyota HiLux as an example, it is offered in some 32 variants spanning trim levels, engine types, driving wheels and body styles. And it's into this complex web that KIa and Hyundai will be launching.
"Dual-cab, single-can, diesel, petrol - what we've requested is the full gamut of a ute family," Kia’s Damien Meredith told us.
For its part, Hyundai is making the same requests, with that brand's COO, Scott Grant, having already told media that “our request has been everything from cab-chassis, single-, double- and extra-cab.
“We have a fairly strong and arduous list of minimum starting positions in terms of towing and other things that you need in Australia, otherwise you are not in the game."
One of the most powerful weapons in the Kia and Hyundai arsenal is both brands' significant localisation programs, with all new models tested and tuned for our roads and conditions.
And the good news is that both brands have already confirmed their incoming utes will be no different, with local development work expected to begin as early as 2021.
"That's part of our robust strategy, we get every car that enters Australia to go through that process," Kia’s Damien Meredith says. "It normally (begins) eight to 12 months out.”
Hyundai, too, is talking up its local testing program.
"As with pretty much all Hyundai vehicles, it will be tested here in Australia. Hot-weather testing happens here, so there's no problem with durability," the brand's Bill Thomas has told media.
Neither brand has made a secret of just how successful they think a ute could be in Australia, with both talking up the sales potential of a workhorse family.
Kia's Damien Meredith has perhaps been the most specific, telling us he would be targeting around 10 per cent of the total ute market (210,000 sales approx), or around 21,000 sales annually.
“When a light commercial range does arrive in Australia, I’d be confident we’d be looking around that eight to 10 per cent market share in that range,” he says.
Hyundai’s Scott Grant is just as convinced of a ute’s potential in Australia, telling media in 2018 that a workhorse could help lift the brand into second place on the sales charts
“For us, it’s about the next great sales spurt, taking us to 120,000 sales and past Mazda,” he told trucksales.com.au “That’s the thing for us. The ute is key. The light commercial vehicle in various forms is key to that."
One ace up Kia’s sleeve will be that it's new ute will offer among the longest warranty period of any dual-cab ute currently on sale in Australia.
Damien Meredith has already confirmed the brand's workhorse will benefit from the same seven-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty as the rest of the Kia range, telling CarsGuide: “Great product, great pricing and a seven-year warranty - it’s a pretty powerful package.”
Hyundai, too, says its ute will be on the receiving end of the same five-year warranty as the rest of its range.
“We think we’re one of the more reliable brands and with a long warranty we can back that up,” Hyundai’s Bill Thomas has told media.