Kia Telluride truck mockup

Will Kia Ever Make a Pickup Truck in the United States?

Kia Truck Speculation

As we’ve extensively discussed on this blog before, Kia’s reputation for making bold forays into unexpected automotive segments is well documented in vehicles like the Kia Stinger, Kia K900 and upcoming Kia Telluride

It’s rare to see this intrepid and maverick attitude in an industry that seems to always fall back on the same tired clichés. Even the less bold vehicles on Kia’s lineup like the Kia Forte, Kia Rio and Kia Niro go above and beyond, defying class tropes like “compact cars must cut corners,” “subcompacts can’t be any fun,” and “crossovers should get less than 45 miles per gallon.”

One area Kia has not ventured into in the United States market is the pickup truck. Kia has commercial models they sell in other markets, like the K2500, that have the capability and utility of a pickup truck. The North American market, however, is one that loves pickup trucks for daily-drivers. It’s also a market where the pickup truck class is governed by only a handful of models.

[READ MORE: Kia K2500 Information and U.S. Availability]

A Kia Pickup Truck?

Today, we’d like to look at the possibility of Kia introducing a truck to compete in this class. Before we go into anything, we’ll say that Kia hasn’t announced anything regarding plans to produce and market a pickup truck in North America. That said, we think there are some excellent reasons for them to consider it.

Here are three reasons why Kia should introduce a pickup truck:

Kia should make a pickup truck because pickup trucks are big sellers with lofty profit margins

Earlier this year, Ford announced that they were going to discontinue all cars except the Mustang. Their reasoning wasn’t one of a lack of sales, but rather the impact of sales. Far and away, Ford’s most popular vehicle is the F-150 pickup truck.

However, it’s also the profit driver for the company. Analysts estimate that Ford loses money for every small car they sell. While some of this is undoubtedly in the form of service issues, small cars must be priced competitively and doing so means taking a hit to introduce drivers to your brand.

For Kia, who have built their empire on volume, rather than margin, introducing a mature vehicle like a truck to which Forte, Optima and Sportage drivers could eventually upgrade would allow them to reap the benefits of a model that may not sell 100,000 units a year, but one on which they’re earning a 15% profit margin rather than, say, 8%.

Kia should make a pickup truck because their Japanese competitors do

We talk about Kia’s evolution a lot here. These days, Kia vehicles don’t compete with budget manufacturers like Mitsubishi or Suzuki as they did when they first came to the United States. Modern Kia vehicles are now aiming for Toyota, Honda and Nissan – the BIG3.

Not only is Kia competing with these manufacturers, but they’re beating them. J.D. Power has Kia scoring higher on their Initial Quality Study for 2018 and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has awarded more Kia vehicles their Top Safety Pick or Top Safety Pick + safety designations in 2018 than any of the BIG3.

One thing the BIG3 have on Kia, however, is utility trucks.

For Toyota, it’s the midsize Tacoma and the half-ton Tundra.

For Honda, it’s the midsize unibody crossover Ridgeline

For Nissan, it’s the midsize Frontier and the half-ton Titan and Titan XD trucks.

Even Volkswagen is toying with the idea of bringing their concept Tanoak to the market to compete with the Honda Ridgeline as a unibody crossover.

The time is perfect for Kia to step up and introduce a model that benefits from Kia’s signature design, reliability and safety ratings.

Kia should make a pickup truck because they have a platform for it

The Honda Ridgeline and Volkswagen Tanoak are both based on existing crossovers. For the Ridgeline, it’s the full-size Pilot. For the Tanoak, it’s the full-size Atlas. For Kia, a pickup truck was less possible due to not having a full-size crossover whose platform could support five-passenger transportation and a bed.

With the upcoming Kia Telluride, however, those days are over.

The Kia Telluride has the outer dimensions of a body-on-frame SUV like the GMC Yukon or Ford Expedition. Adding a bed and removing the third row would take very little in the way of restyling. Plus, it’d instantly be among the best-looking pickup trucks in the game.

A Kia Pickup Truck Could Be Closer Than We Think

Although they’re not the same company, Kia and Hyundai share platforms for many of the vehicles they both sell in North America (You can read more about that complicated relationship here). Three years ago, Hyundai debuted their concept Santa Cruz pickup truck – a unibody pickup truck.

Hyundai Santa Cruz concept pickup truck from front three quarter angle

Say what you want to about the way it looks…That’s it, say what you want. It’s not great, is it?Although recent reports push the production model of the Santa Cruz to at least 2020, Kia will likely be waiting to see how it performs and deciding whether they should follow suit. This wouldn’t be the first time either company has done that. For Kia, the success of the Hyundai Kona will likely determine whether they bring the Kia Stonic to U.S. shores.

For Hyundai, seeing the success of the Kia Stinger inspired them to co-opt the platform for their luxury line Genesis and the G70.

Again, this is all speculation. If Kia releases anything about a pickup truck model, you know you’ll hear about it first right here on the Friendly Kia blog.

For more information about current Kia models or to test-drive a capable and cargo-friendly Kia vehicle like the 2019 Kia Sedona, contact us today!

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