KIA Ute-Right first time


KIA Ute-Right first time

Go Auto News - 14th June 2023

KIA Australia will be targeting the biggest hitters and most up-todate newcomers in the ute segment when it launches its first-ever pick-up range in the coming 24-36 months, featuring a “significant” amount of Australian input into the final product just like the locally developed Ford Ranger and VW Amarok.

Work has already begun on the ute range, with local e n g i n e e r s a n d executives toiling to ready the ute for launch – and ensure it is good enough to earn a 10 per cent slice of the Australian ute market, or in the ballpark of Mitsubishi’s Triton. Kia Australia general manager of product planning and training, Roland Rivero, confirmed that the company’s local arm is already deep in the process of making the ute the right fit for the local market, while also ensuring it meets the needs of buyers in similar ute-mad markets like South Africa.

“There’s a substantial amount of work being done,” said Mr Rivero. “A lot of work is being done, and a lot of work has already been done to, as much as possible, influence the development of this model. “We’ve had visitors from Namyang getting acquainted with our market, our dealers, and a few media people as well. And, basically, bolstering their understanding of what our market requires and needs by way of a ute. “When you’re involved this far out, Australia’s role is being seen as a very important one,” he said, before elaborating on the notion that while Aussies have specific needs and wants, there are other markets that have similar requirements and conditions

“They see commonalities with what Australia requires and how that will flow through to, say, the Middle East, to other parts of the world, South Africa. There are typically similar aspects of what is expected,” said Mr Rivero. When it comes to the models that Kia’s research and development team are looking at most closely when it comes to benchmarking and target-setting, there are two that stand out – the aforementioned Ranger and Amarok.

“If you dissect the market, you look at who are the main benchmarks – and that has evolved – obviously the last couple of years, when we were starting this conversation there wasn’t an all-new Ranger, that’s come along, and so has Amarok,” he said. “It is critical that the R&D team understand who the main benchmarks were, their features, towing capacities, payloads, body styles. “Even though we’ve already got Ranger and Amarok, they were, for example, rated under 2022 ANCAP protocols, so we’re well aware of what’s to come,” he said, in terms of safety requirements and fleet expectations in the years to come. “And we’re also well aware of how long the common life of a light commercial vehicle is – it has to … be suitable for our market,” he said, when referring to the expected seven-year warranty cover and expected toughness and reliability dual-cab ute buyers have come to demand. “We’re very adamant we need to look at the entirety of the segment, the entirety of the category, and prepare to target for the main part of it,” said Mr Rivero. Kia Australia ride and handling engineer, Graeme Gambold, said the new ute is still in the process of development, so nothing has been signed off as yet.

“It’s not different to any other new R&D project. While it’s evolving, it’s also flexible – concrete doesn’t set until you go to production, and that’s a fair way off,” he said. “So even though there’s a huge amount of work that has been done – I was up at the research centre last week – and it’s a huge focus for a lot of the engineers up there to get it right. “But nothing is in concrete yet. It’ll evolve, and if there are changes in certain technologies or there are certain directions … there’s a very big focus on making sure it’s very suitable for this market,” he said.

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