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Don’t hold your breath – there’s probably not going to be a Kia ute, the Korean brand’s Aussie boss has revealed to CarsGuide.
The shocking admission from Kia Australia’s chief operating officer Damien Meredith comes after years of talk from the car maker that it would build a dual cab 4x4 ute, possibly in conjunction with Hyundai, to rival the Ford Ranger, Toyota HiLux and Isuzu D-Max. But it has only just been revealed that the chances of this happening are just about zero.
“I think it’s probably a long shot,” Mr Meredith said in what is a huge step back from his positive tone about the prospect of a Kia ute over the past two years.
Development of the Kia ute appeared to be well underway back in 2020 when Mr Meredith told Australians to expect “dual cab, single cab, diesel, petrol – what we’ve requested is the full gamut of a ute family”. The media was even predicting a launch of the Kia ute in 2022.
It appears now that those requests to Kia’s headquarters, have gone largely ignored.
Mr Meredith told us that he pitched the idea of a Kia ute to Kia’s global chief executive officer Ho-Sung Song years ago.
When it was explained to Mr Song that ute sales represent more than 20 per cent of the Australian market and that a Kia ute could be so popular that its sales in one month could smash the total sales of the rest of brand’s entire line-up over the same period the company’s CEO couldn’t believe it.
In no uncertain terms, Mr Meredith told Kia headquarters that if they gave Australia a ute it could probably rack up 20,000 sales a year accounting for 10 per cent of the light commercial vehicle market.
“We put together a plan about four years ago and said look we believe we can do this many, and Mr Song nearly fell off his chair and said that’s impossible you couldn’t do that many. But he started counting then he started believing,” Mr Meredith said.
So, what happened?
“We haven’t had any definitive answer from Kia headquarters,” Mr Meredith admitted. “Every time I see him, he says: 'I understand what you said Damian, but let’s just wait and see'.”
Hope appears all but lost now of what seemed a very real chance that a Kia ute would become reality. The ball appears to be in Kia headquarters court and it looks as though it’s not going to be hit back.
Kia had seemingly put together a bulletproof case. The plan was for a proper off-road ute on a new ladder frame chassis like the HiLux and Ranger, and not be based on Hyundai’s Santa Cruz pick-up which rides on the same platform as the Tucson SUV.
It was thought Hyundai could also benefit out of a 4x4 ute and even supply grunt in the form of a 205kW/590Nm 3.0-litre six-cylinder turbo-diesel found in the Genesis GV80. But despite all the planning it seems that the powers that be at Kia’s head office don’t see what the rest of us can – that a Kia ute would be winner.
“We’ve done our homework,” Mr Meredith said, “but it’s not up to us it’s up to Kia headquarters and they just haven’t given us an answer.”
But the answer as Mr Meredith suggests is in the silence and then came an almost resignation that any hope of a Kia ute was all but over.
“I think if they had have done it and planned it, then it would have been here by now,” Mr Meredith said.
“Don’t get depressed by that. We’ve got a lot of good stuff coming in regards to alternate fuels and we’re really excited about what the future holds for the brand.”
Just not a ute.