Kia engages sporting stars to sell its new Kia

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

The brand has launched a star-studded television commercial to announce it is taking expressions of interest for its HiLux rival, which is due next year.

The ad features high-profile names from all the major sporting codes speculating on the possible name for the new vehicle, which is tipped to be called the 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 initial shot of the pub also has the letters “Ta …”.

Utes filled the top three positions on the sales charts last year and Kia anticipates selling more than 20,000 and 25,000 units a year, which would make it the second biggest brand in the country behind Toyota.

It could also force the main players to increase their warranty periods, as Kia offers a standard seven years coverage across its range. The HiLux and Ranger have five-year warranties.

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

Kia Australia’s head of product planning Roland Rivero said earlier this year a local team of product specialists and engineers would have a say on every aspect of the new ute.

The brand has already bought competitor vehicles and torn them down, looking at every detail to make sure their product is competitive.

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

“They include a five-star ANCAP (crash rating), they include three and half tonne towing and they include greater than a tonne payload. Research and development are very much aware of these and we are working towards that.”

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

The brand has a 2.2-litre turbodiesel in its Sorento large SUV that makes 148kW and 440Nm, slightly less than the rival Ford and Toyota. A more powerful six-cylinder version could come 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 of the diesel.

He said it would be able to tow at least 2.5 tonnes, be available in two-wheel and four-wheel-drive variants and have vehicle to load capability, which would allow tradies to charge their power tools from the ute.

Kia will need an electric version if the government pushes ahead with tough new vehicle emission laws that will financially penalise carmakers who sell thirsty vehicles.

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

If the government’s legislation is passed by parliament, they will incur penalties for every gram of CO2 they emit above 81g/km. That’s less CO2 than the most efficient hybrid on the market.

A diesel ute also won’t sit well with the Tasman nameplate, given that Tasmania has the cleanest air on the planet.

Kia’s sister company Hyundai is reportedly launching also planning to launch two utes by 2026, one sized between the Ranger and full-sized F150 pick-up and another smaller ute that will be based on passenger car underpinnings, harking back to the days of the Holden Commodore and Ford Falcon utes.

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