Kia ute's secret weapons in the fight against the Toyota HiLux and Ford Ranger
Kia has confirmed it will have a proper ute in Australia as early as 2022, with executives confirming "work has begun" on a genuine rival for the Toyota HiLux and Ford Ranger. But the road to dual-cab domination is a long one, and Kia knows it will need an ace or two up its sleeve to grab a sizeable market share.
And sizeable is exactly what Kia is targeting, with the brand's Australian COO, Damien Meredith, saying he hopes the new ute will snap up a 10 per cent market share of our 210,000 (approximate) pick-up market, or around 21,000 sales annually.
“When a light commercial range does arrive in Australia, I’d be confident we’d be looking around that eight to 10 per cent market share in that range,” Meredith says.
The question now is, just how will Kia do it? Well, according to Meredith, a new Kia ute will use a three-prong strategy to lure customers to its LCV family, with the top of that list being variety.
While the broader Hyundai group has so far focused on "lifestyle" ute products (like the Santa Cruz concept that is still awaiting production), Kia's ute will be a proper workhorse, spanning the full and complicated model lineups offered by its key competitors.
Next on the list is a thorough localisation program, with the new ute to be shipped to Australia as early as 2021 to receive a bespoke suspension tune that will leave it tailor-made for our unique road surfaces.
The importance of this can't really be understated; Kia (and, separately, Hyundai) runs a seriously effective suspension tuning program for Australia - the Kia Stinger, for example, runs a very different ride and handling setup to cars destined for other markets.
And that same process has been confirmed for the Kia ute, with work to begin up to 12 months out from the car's eventual on-sale date in 2022 or 2023.
"That's part of our robust strategy, we get every car that enters Australia to go through that process," Meredith says. "It normally (begins) eight to 12 months out."
And the final weapon? Among the longest warranty periods of any dual-cab ute currently on sale in Australia, with only SsangYong's Musso able to match Kia's full seven-year, unlimited-kilometre coverage period, with capped-price servicing offered for the duration. The Ford Ranger and Toyota HiLux both get a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty.
“Great product, great pricing and a seven-year warranty - it’s a pretty powerful package, I think," Meredith says.
Can Kia shake-up Australia's ute market? Tell us in the comments below.