Back in July, we reported that Kia was planning to build a midsize pickup. The automaker has started work on the truck, according to Damien Meredith, Chief Operating Officer of Kia Australia. The yet-unnamed truck will hit the market in 2022 or 2023. A Hyundai variant — most likely the Santa Cruz — is also projected to be launched around the same time.
A new Kia truck offering for Austalia
As promising as this news initially sounds to Kia fans in the U.S., this story’s fly remains in the ointment. Greg Fink of Motor 1 reiterated that sales of the truck will be limited to the land of kangaroos and koalas for now.
It’s especially disappointing since COO Meredith said that the truck — or the ute as it’s called in the land of Oz — will be available in both single and dual cab styles as well as in gas and diesel engine options.
The COO went on to say that the platform for the Kia pickup would be brand new. Motor Trend has speculated that the truck might be based on Kia’s new SUV, the Telluride. But if the truck does have a new platform, it seems unlikely that it would be based on the Sorento chassis as the Telluride is.
The Kia truck would be designed as a true pickup and not as a “lifestyle vehicle” on the order of the carlike Honda Ridgeline with its unibody construction. It logically follows that the Kia truck will also distinguish itself from the upcoming Hyundai Santa Cruz, which will also have unibody construction.
Meredith seemed to suggest, as Autoblog’s Zac Palmer points out, that Kia’s truck would be a body-on-frame construction utility vehicle geared for non-U.S. markets. The truck would be positioned to rival the popular Toyota Hilux.
We went back to the original CarsGuide article that Fink referenced to dig a little deeper. Kia hopes to capture eight to 10 percent of the Australian dual-cab ute market with its new pickup, putting pressure not only on the Hilux but also on the Ford Ranger, the Mitsubishi Triton and the Australian version of the Nissan Frontier, the Navara. A huge advantage that the Kia truck will offer over its rivals is a seven-year warranty.
Meanwhile, back in the States…
Kia Motors America remained cautious about commenting on the matter when Fink asked for its input. But it didn’t entirely rule out the possibility of bringing the pickup to the U.S. market since the automaker is continually reviewing it for new opportunities.
The American division’s response to Fink lines up with what its Chief Operating Officer and Executive Vice President Michael Cole told Miguel Cortina of Motor Trend in April this year. He said the possibility of a Kia pickup truck is “a long way down the road.”
Furthermore, Kia is focusing on becoming a stronger SUV brand. And it wants to maintain its standing in the sedan market as well as to make its mark in the electric car market with the Niro EV and the Soul EV. Although the carmaker wouldn’t rule out offering a pickup truck in the U.S. at some point, it currently isn’t a priority.
If Kia were to put this truck on the American market, it would compete with the likes of the Chevrolet Colorado, the Ford Ranger, and the Toyota Tacoma. The single cab and diesel options offered in Australia would probably not be offered here. If it were imported, it would also have to be modified to comply with U.S. emissions and safety standards, or it would have to be manufactured stateside.
The question then becomes, is the American market ready for a real mid-size pickup truck that would have Kia’s pricing and quality and, best of all, a seven-year warranty? The answer from U.S. buyers is yes, please.