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Kia Ute to rival HiLux and Ranger possible by 2020

A pick-up could join the Kia portfolio alongside the Telluride SUV in 2020 or 2021.

Kia Australia is pushing for the production of its own one-tonne pick-up to take on the likes of the Toyota HiLux and Ford Ranger that could share its underpinnings with the recently-announced Telluride seven-seat SUV.

The pick-up would be a true competitor for the popular HiLux and Ranger with a ladder-frame chassis, dual-cab and single-cab bodystyles, and the choice of two- or four-wheel drive capability.

For powertrains, the most likely option would be to use engines already seen on Kia models such as the 147kW/441Nm 2.2-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder and a 206kW/336Nm 3.5-litre petrol V6.

During the reveal of the Telluride at the Detroit motor show in January, Kia Motors America vice-president of product planning Orth Hedrick told a US publication that any Kia-branded pick-up would “have to be authentic”, meaning a body-on-frame chassis.

Kia remains tight-lipped on the prospect of a pick-up, however Kia Motors Australia (KMAu) product planning general manager Roland Rivero was hopeful the brand would be able to produce an offering in the highly competitive segment.

“If we were going to prioritise things, it would be a small SUV and a light-commercial vehicle,” he said at the launch of the Kia Cerato last week.

“And with a light-commercial vehicle being a pick-up, we’re also not discounting the fact it could also become an SUV. So, get that ladder-frame platform, push for not only a dual cab, single cab and cab chassis, but we’d also look at a potential SUV in a similar vein to Toyota Fortuner and Ford Everest.

“2020/2021 is where I would like it to be.”

The company has experience with hardy vehicles, having been founded as a light-commercial vehicle producer in 1944. The company has experience with hardy vehicles, having been founded as a light-commercial vehicle producer in 1944.

Given the popularity of utes in Australia, Mr Rivero said a pick-up would be next frontier for growing Kia sales Down Under, after registering a record 57,737 sales in 2017. He also said Kia’s local arm is looking to produce one as soon as possible.

“We have made it to top seven year-to-date… and if you look at who’s at number one to number six above us, they’ve all got a light-commercial range. So, are we frustrated? To some extent, yes,” he said.

“Do I want one, does Damien (Meredith, KMAu COO) want one? Absolutely.

“We always put our hand up. Every time we have get an opportunity to be in front of KMC, whether it be the research and development team or global CEO, they’re well aware. More recently, the global CEO was in town, and from his trip to the airport to KMAu head office, he lost count of the number of utes he saw… and he was a bit surprised by (their popularity).

“I explained to him that such trucks are recession proof, in that irrespective of a global financial crisis or drought, they’re a tool of trade and business has to continue. And on top of that you have accessories revenue to explore.

“So, believe me, R&D are aware of the potential that’s there, and they’re studying it profusely.”

Mr Rivero believes introducing a pick-up, as well as the Telluride and a small SUV, would place Kia in top-five sales contention, compared to its current seventh place, which is up 10.4 per cent over the same time last year.

One main roadblock for a pick-up would be production capacity, with the majority of Kia’s global plants running at close to capacity.

The company has experience with hardy vehicles, having been founded as a light-commercial vehicle producer in 1944.

Its latest commercial vehicle to be offered in Australia, the K900, was discontinued here in 2012 after a decade-long sales run.

Would you consider buying a Kia pick-up? Tell us what you think in the comments below.