Details surrounding the machine are scarce but it is believed the company is aiming to snare up to 10 per cent of the ute market, which was close to 230,000 vehicles last year. Australia’s total new-car market is about 1 million.
Scheduled to go on sale in 2025, the ute will ride on a new platform with a rugged “ladder frame” construction designed to carry heavy loads.
Kia is believed to have told its dealers at a conference on Friday that the machine would be powered by a diesel engine and offer similar towing and payload capacities to the Ranger and HiLux.
That means it should be able to tow up to 3.5 tonnes and carry up to a tonne in the tray.
Power could come from a choice of four-cylinder or V6 turbo diesel engines found in the Hyundai and Kia group. Kia has previously said there will eventually be an electric version that could account for up to a quarter of sales of the workhorse.
The brand’s chief operating officer, Damien Meredith, last year told website “the Driven” that an electric ute could be launched as early as 2025. He said it would be able to tow at least 2.5 tonnes, be available in two-wheel and four-wheel-drive variants and have vehicle to load capability, which would allow tradies to charge their power tools from the ute.
The maker is a leader in EV technology and already sells two EVs in the local market.
The diesel engine is likely to be the 2.2-litre, 148kW and 440Nm turbo diesel engine found in the Kia Sorento and Hyundai Santa Fe.
But the brand might push the envelope further with a 3.0-litre turbo diesel V6 motor that sends 184kW and 560Nm to all four wheels.
It is currently used in the Kia Mohave, a large SUV not sold in Australia.
Kia is rumoured to have been developing a ute in Australia and beyond for more than two years.
When pushed for more information, the brand’s Australian arm was tight-lipped, saying only that: “Kia is currently developing a future pick-up truck model that will be highly capable and fit for purpose”.
“Additional details will be confirmed in due course.”
The arrival of the ute is expected to be good news for buyers, who have seen ute prices soar since the beginning of the pandemic.
Some top end Toyota and Ford utes can cost more than $80,000 on the road, but it is believed Kia will aim at the more affordable end of the market to begin with.
It could also force the main players to increase their warranty periods, as Kia offers a standard seven years coverage across its range. The HiLux and Ranger have five-year warranties.
Kia finished third in the sales race last year, edging ahead of Mitsubishi and Hyundai to follow Toyota and Mazda across the line.
A popular pick-up might be enough for Kia to overtake Mazda and snatch second place.
Kia’s sister brand, Hyundai, has also expressed a desire to sell utes in Australia.
The manufacturer is believed to be flirting with the notion of a compact, car-based ute in the Hyundai Santa Cruz sold overseas.
But that ute is in high demand in the United States, so it may not be able to import sufficient volumes.
Another option would be to develop a full-sized pick-up truck in line with America’s bestsellers, the Ford F-150, Chevrolet Silverado and RAM 1500.