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New Kia boss takes up LCV cause

Load up: Kia’s Pregio van helped to establish Kia in Australia, and local executives would like to re-establish that presence in LCVs.

Kia needs LCVs to move to next level in Australia, says newly arrived CEO

Kia logo22 Jan 2018

By RON HAMMERTON

KIA Motors Australia’s quest for light-commercial vehicle models – particularly a ute – to take advantage of Australia’s light truck boom has found support from the company’s new local chief executive, Woong ‘Ben’ Hur.

Speaking to Australian journalists last weekend for the first time since arriving in Australia from his previous role at Kia Motors Germany, Mr Hur said he had noticed the size of the pick-up market in Australia.

“You have big potential in commercial vehicles,” he said. “On a long-term basis, we will have to think about it.”

Mr Hur said that if Kia Motors Australia (KMAu) was to take a higher position in the Australian market, commercial vehicles would need to be added to the local line-up.

Asked if he would take up this subject with his head office in South Korea, he said: “Yes, it is on the list.”

Kia is ranked ninth in vehicles sales in Australia, and all eight brands above it on the VFACTS sales ladder have commercial vehicle models in their armoury.

Kia appears to have no immediate plans to come up with a modern replacement for the Pregio one-box van that was sold in Australia between 2002 and 2006, nor the K2700 and K2900 small trucks offered between 2002 and 2013.

Those vehicles were dropped because they did not meet emissions and safety requirements for western markets such as Australia, although they are still sold in some parts of the world.

Kia does not have access to parent company Hyundai’s successful iLoad commercial van that is second in that segment’s sales to Toyota’s HiAce on the Australian market.

What KMAu would really like is a one-tonne pick-up to take on the likes of the Toyota HiLux and Ford Ranger – the top-two sellers in the Australian new-vehicle market in 2017.

Although Hyundai is said to have started development of such a one-tonner for potential sale globally under Hyundai badges, like the iLoad it is not expected to be extended to Kia if and when it gets the green light.

Last year, Kia had a handy 8.1 per cent share of the Australian passenger car market, as well as a 3.9 per cent slice of the SUV market.

But without a presence in the light-commercial vehicle segment, its overall share shrinks to 4.6 per cent.

With the LCV market growing at 8.6 per cent – faster than SUVs (+5.6 per cent) – the ability for Kia growth against rivals is constrained.

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