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Future models - Kia - Ute

Kia sets sights on HiLux with ute due in 2021

Back to Mojave: Kia first floated the idea of a ute in 2004 with the KCV4 Mojave concept that debuted at the Chicago motor show.

Long-awaited ute to propel Australian Kia sales toward 100K a year from 2021

22 Nov 2017

A UTE will join the Kia line-up in 2021 to help propel the brand toward 100,000 annual sales in Australia after passenger car volume peaks around 80,000 units at the dawn of next decade.

Speaking at a media event in Brisbane this week, Kia Motors Australia (KMAu) chief operating officer Damien Meredith promised the ute would deliver “Kia quality with Australian setup”.

Although details remain scarce while KMAu awaits final confirmation of the ute program, Mr Meredith suggested the vehicle would go toe-to-toe with the likes of the top-selling Toyota HiLux and Ford Ranger that are most popular in dual-cab 4x4 guise.

“From what we know thus far it’s going to be pretty suitable for the Australian market. It’ll probably be a dual-cab, I would suggest,” he said.

“We’re waiting for confirmation. What they’re telling us is it’ll be here in 2021.”

In recent months, Kia’s sister brand Hyundai has edged closer to – but stopped short of – officially confirming of a rugged one-tonne ute separate to the small Tucson-based, lifestyle-oriented Santa Cruz that will be squarely aimed at the North American market.

Mr Meredith confirmed development of the Kia version was “definitely in-house”.

This suggests it will be mechanically related to the mooted Hyundai ute rather than sharing a platform with established models, which are often the product of co-development deals between rival brands.

These include the Mazda BT-50 and Ford Ranger, the Isuzu D-Max and Holden Colorado or the Nissan Navara and its Renault Alaskan and Mercedes-Benz X-Class offshoots.

However, Mr Meredith was not yet sure whether other configurations such as cab-chassis would be offered, but said, “it would nice to do the whole spectrum”.

He also declared that the commercial vehicle would benefit from a market-leading aftercare policy consistent with Kia’s passenger cars.

“We wouldn’t bring the car in unless it had a seven-year warranty – that’ll be a strong sales point,” he said.

“Like all our product, we’ll make sure it’s a great value proposition in the market.”

Despite the talk of value, the way Mr Meredith smoothly segued from the ute conversation to the fact that in October 10 per cent of Kia buyers bought models priced higher than $60,000 suggested he saw opportunity in the high proportion of Australian dual-cab ute buyers who go for high-spec variants.

“You can say what you like about us being cheap and cheerful, but 422 customers have seen our product and laid out $60,000-plus to buy a Stinger, to buy a Carnival or to buy a Sorento,” he said.

While Mr Meredith acknowledged that Kia would be “late into the market” with its ute, he said he was confident the current trend toward big one-tonners would last.

“It’s obvious now that for people who used to buy Commodores and Falcons, there is a tendency for them to move into that area of HiLux, Colorado, Ranger etcetera,” he said.

Kia has been on a roll in Australia in recent years, with a full-year sales forecast recently revised up to 54,000 units – representing 26.6 per cent growth. This follows up a 26.5 per cent uptick in 2016 and a 20.5 per cent sales surge in 2015.

At this rate the brand would hit the 100,000 sales mark before the end of 2020, but Mr Meredith expected more modest percentage increases between now and the end of the decade.

“We think we can probably get to 80,000 in the next three years – that’s basically 10-12 per cent year-on-year growth in that three-year period,” he said.

Mr Meredith added that the leap to 70,000 sales would come courtesy of a new sub-Sportage small SUV that will arrive in 2019.

“With 80,000 sales by 2020, light commercials on top of that you’re probably going to be close to 100,000,” he said.

“We think that we’re probably an 80,000 franchisee before light commercials arrive. We’re pretty OK with that.

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