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Kia will take on the big brands in the utility market

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Kia is banking on star power to give its upcoming rival Toyota HiLux a chance at sporting success.

The brand has launched a star-studded television advert to announce that it is taking into account expressions of interest in its product. Rival HiLuxwhich is expected next year.

The advert features high-profile names from all the major sporting codes speculating on the possible name of the new vehicle, which is expected to be called Tasman.

Sporting celebrities range from former Australian test captain Steve Waugh and former Australian Open tennis champion Ash Barty to AFL and rugby league legends Buddy Franklin and Allan Langer.

Steve Waugh suggests “Tugga” as the name, while Langer suggests “Alfie” and Franklin “Buddy”.

But the biggest clue comes when Langer throws a dart at a map of the Tasman Sea.

The original plan of the pub also bears the letters “Ta…”.

Utes occupied the top three spots in the sales rankings last year and Kia expects to sell more than 20,000 and 25,000 units annually, which would make it the second largest brand in the country behind Toyota.

It could also force major players to increase their warranty periods, as Kia offers seven years of standard coverage across its range. The HiLux and Ranger come with a five-year warranty.

Kia’s ute has already been tested in Korea and the company is expected to launch a local testing and development program this year.

Roland Rivero, head of product planning at Kia Australia, said earlier this year that a local team of product specialists and engineers would have a say in every aspect of the new utility.

The brand has previously purchased competing vehicles and torn them apart, examining every detail to ensure their product is competitive.

“We have non-negotiables that have been highlighted and communicated to research and development,” Rivero said.

“They include a five-star ANCAP (crash rating), they include a towing rating of three and a half tonnes and a payload of over a tonne. Research and development is fully aware of this and we are working on it.

The ute is expected to be powered by a four-cylinder turbodiesel, matching the best-selling versions of the Ford Ranger and Toyota HiLux.

The brand has a 2.2-litre turbodiesel in its Sorento large SUV that produces 148kW and 440Nm, slightly less than rivals Ford and Toyota. A more powerful six-cylinder version could arrive later.

Kia chief operating officer Damien Meredith has said in the past that an electric version of the ute should follow within a year or two after the diesel.

It said it would be capable of towing at least 2.5 tonnes, would be available in two- and four-wheel drive variants and would have vehicle charging capability, allowing professionals to charge their power tools from the ute .

Kia will need an electric version if the government pushes through tough new vehicle emissions laws that will financially penalize carmakers for selling thirsty vehicles.

Diesel vehicles are some of the thirstiest – and dirtiest – vehicles on the market, with many emitting more than 200 grams of CO2 per kilometer.

If the government’s legislation is passed by Parliament, they will face penalties for every gram of CO2 emitted above 81 g/km. This is less CO2 than the most efficient hybrid on the market.

A diesel vehicle won’t fit the Tasman nameplate either, given that Tasmania has the cleanest air on the planet.

Kia’s sister company Hyundai is also reportedly planning to launch two utility vehicles by 2026, one mid-sized between the Ranger and the full-size F150 pickup and another smaller one that will be based on car underpinnings touring, reminiscent of the Holden era. Commodore and Ford Falcon utility vehicles.

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