Kia’s Aussie pickup targets nation’s love of energy guzzling trucks

CANBERRA: As global automakers pivot to electrify their fleets, South Korea’s Kia Corp has gone against the grain by unveiling its first pickup truck – a diesel model designed specifically for the Australian market.

The move is testament to Australians’ abiding love for hardy off-roaders and is another sign of just how difficult it will be to wean the country off fuel-guzzling vehicles.

Last month, Kia released a teaser trailer for the truck, with some of Australia’s most-loved sports stars – including tennis champion Ash Barty, around-the-world sailer Jessica Watson, AFL legend Buddy Franklin, Matilda’s goalkeeper Mackenzie Arnold and cricketer Steve Waugh – arguing the vehicle should be named after them.

In a follow-up trailer released last Thursday, the truck’s rightful name was confirmed – the Kia Tasman.

The moniker is a nod to the Tasman sea between Australia and New Zealand, evoking the rugged region that inspired much of the truck’s specifications.

Kia called it the “most Australian Kia yet” in a statement, confirming it to be their first product given an Aussie-inspired name.

The new model will be entering a crowded market. Dual-cab “utes”, as pickup truckss are known locally, are the most popular cars in Australia, with Ford Motor Co’s Ranger, Toyota Motor Corp’s Hilux and Isuzu Motor’s Ltd’s D-Max filling the top three spots last year.

“We logically felt that the next step in our growth and our presence in the Australian landscape was to add the product that most Australians are driving,” Roland Rivero, general manager of product planning at Kia Australia, said in an interview.

Still, “it was a difficult process of convincing our headquarters to give it to us”, given the industry’s move toward electrification, he added.

Kia is hoping to capture 10% of the Australian light-commercial vehicle market with the Tasman, setting an annual sales target of 20,000 units, a modest goal compared to the Ranger’s and Hilux’s sales, which each topped 60,000 last year.

“It’s obviously going to be very tough, we’ve got very established competitors that have been doing this for decades,” Rivero said. However, “there’s definitely an opportunity there to try and convert some of those customers looking at the existing ute competitors.”

The Tasman’s high-quality specifications and market-leading seven-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty will be strong selling points, he said.

To bolster its credentials as a workhorse utility vehicle, the Tasman will sport a 3.5 tonne towing capacity, a payload of at least one tonne, and Ancap safety certification that will allow it to break into the lucrative fleet market.

The vehicle will appeal to customers looking to “buy a ute, use it as a tool of the trade Monday to Friday, and on the weekend it’s a family vehicle similar to an SUV”.


The Tasman will also be sold in the Middle East, South Africa, South America and parts of Asia, but Australia is clearly the focal point.

“We’ve never had a product that has had this level of engineers coming to Australia to tailor the product for our market,” Rivero said.

The launch of a new diesel ute tailored for Australian tastes and conditions is another sign the road to electrifying the nation’s vehicle fleet is likely to be long and slow.
Autos Kia