Is Kia Ready for a Pickup?
May 2, 2008
Rumors have again bubbled up that Kia is poised to begin selling a body-on-frame V-6 and V-8 pickup truck in the U.S. by the 2011 model year. That could be good timing, as a pickup slightly larger than a Toyota Tacoma would attack a market besieged by rising gasoline prices detrimental to F-150, Silverado, and Ram sales.
Kia's 2004 Chicago show concept, the Mojave, hinted at the styling and size of the 2009 Borrego sport/utility vehicle. While the Mojave proves a good display of upstart Kia's confidence, it ignores the reality of selling pickup trucks in America. To avoid the 45-year-old "chicken tax," a 25-percent tariff on trucks built outside North America or Australia, Kia would have to build a second production facility here--and quick--to get the truck on sale by the 2011 model year.
Until recently, parent company Hyundai had a different plan. It wanted to build a heavy-duty pickup only, codenamed WH for "workhorse" (thus avoiding CAFE) and sign an agreement with an American manufacturer to build it (thus avoiding the chicken tax). Among those rumored to be negotiating with Hyundai for the WH's production was Navistar, possibly using either Hyundai- or Navistar-designed diesels. Hyundai pulled the plug on the WH even before the U.S. pickup market went soft.
In the end, our guess is that timing will never be right for the Kia Mojave, either. Consider how the bigger-than-Mojave Toyota Tundra struggles for traction in the U.S. market and that the smaller-than-Mojave Tacoma dominates the compact-import pickup market, and the business case for a Kia pickup just doesn't look good.