Kia appears to be inching towards America’s lucrative pickup segment. The company reportedly approved the project in 2019, though we haven’t seen any evidence of it yet, and the head of its design department recently stated that he would love to work on a truck.

“I’d welcome [a pickup] with open arms,” said Karim Habib in an interview with British magazine Autocar. Kia’s heritage certainly isn’t rooted in trucks, but the firm has demonstrated it’s capable of venturing into new segments when needed (notably by releasing the Telluride), and sister company Hyundai argued with the Santa Cruz that stepping into the truck world doesn’t require decades of pickup-building experience.

Of course, the definition of a pickup varies depending on who you ask and where they live. Habib was seemingly alluding to one that could be credibly sold in the United States: “It would fit our portfolio and the brand. In the pickup market in the United States, there is a huge amount of loyalty to existing brands. But, there are also new things opening up, so maybe there is room for another brand.”

Reading between the lines suggests that a burly, Kia-badged truck aimed at the Ford F-150 won’t see the light that awaits at the end of a production line anytime soon. He didn’t elaborate on what new things he sees opening up; while this is pure speculation, he could have been referring to America’s renewed interest in smaller models, like Ford’s Ranger and Maverick, or the hype surrounding electric pickups.

There are several paths Kia could follow to get to the truck market. The quickest, simplest, and cheapest would be to take the Santa Cruz, give it a Kia-like exterior design, and call it a good job well done. It could also design a model from the ground up. Another intriguing (and, in the grand scheme of things, far more realistic) point that’s worth bringing up is that Kia’s Australian division has asked executives for a body-on-frame SUV in the vein of the Chevrolet Tahoe. If the project is approved, the architecture would likely also underpin a Hyundai- and Genesis-badged model in order to split development costs. Putting it under a truck as well would make sense. 

Nothing is official yet, but it sounds like Kia is keeping a close eye on the pickup segment.

Kia has made trucks before, but not the type you’re likely to spot at Home Depot in Salt Lake City. In some markets, the firm has sold a cab-forward pickup called Bongo (or, in some countries, K-Series) since 1980. Shown above, it’s purely a commercial vehicle, it wasn’t developed with family-hauling duties in mind, and it has been offered in several configurations including single- and double-cab models.

Several factors have kept the Bongo away from our market, including the Chicken Tax. Kia also explored the opposite end of the pickup spectrum when it unveiled the Soulster concept in 2009. It never made the leap from the show floor to the showroom floor. Keep traveling back in time and you’ll encounter the KCV4 Mojave (pictured in the gallery above), which was envisioned as an alternative to the Ranger.

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By seohan