UTES are the new automotive black. Next year we'll see a luxury Mercedes-Benz ute, and Kia has also revealed plans to join the dual cab act.
Forecast to arrive in 2021, Kia Australia is uncertain of the model and variant availability, but chief operating officer Damien Meredith said he would like to see a full range of dual cab and cab chassis derivatives.
"People who used to buy Commodores and Falcons etcetera, there is a tendency for them to move into the area of HiLux, Colorado and Ranger,” Mr Meredith said.
"We'll be late into market, but we wouldn't bring the car in unless it had a seven-year warranty. We think that will be a strong sales point.
"What we know thus far, it's going to be pretty suitable for the Australian market.
"It will be Kia quality with Australian set-up, and like all our product we will make sure it's a great value proposition.”
Kia's parent company, Hyundai, has its own plans to release a ute in 2020 or 2021. While the Santa Cruz concept first revealed at Detroit in 2015 was based off a Tucson platform, the Hyundai ute will require a whole new architecture.
Hyundai has yet to receive confirmation of the ute's production, with factory availability an issue. The company could create a purpose-built factory in Thailand, the hub of international ute production, to accommodate the proposal.
Down Under, dual cab sales are white-hot.
Toyota's HiLux was Australia's most popular selling vehicle last year, and it's expected to maintain the mantle in 2017. HiLux currently leads with 39,000 sales, ahead of another ute, the Ford Ranger (35,600).
Kia is Australia's fastest growing mainstream brand. Last year the South Korean marque sold more than 42,000 units, and is on track to achieve more than 54,000 in 2017.
Maintaining a strong sales trajectory, Kia Australia believes it has the capacity to sell 100,000 units annually with the ute's introduction.
If the early success of the Mercedes-Benz X-Class is any indication, Aussies are besotted by utes.
Cashed-up tradies are already putting down deposits on the new Mercedes ute - six months before it goes on sale and without knowing the price.
But one thing is certain, it won't be getting grubby on worksites or carrying rubbish.
The German brand's first tradie-mobile arrives in showrooms in April 2018 to cash in on the boom in super-luxury utes.
The Mercedes X-Class will be one of five mega utes to be released by this time next year, with Ford, Holden, Toyota and Volkswagen also planning models that will eclipse $70,000.
More than 7000 buyers have registered their interest online for the new Merc, which is actually based on a Nissan Navara, albeit with extensive changes and a completely unique body.
Tradies enjoying the construction boom, families and luxury car owners are the driving force behind the surge in sales, according to industry data. The latest utes are more comfortable to drive than they were a decade ago and are gaining up-to-date safety features as each new model goes on sale.
Ford has released teaser images of its upcoming Ranger Raptor with desert-racer styling and suspension, Holden Special Vehicles will introduce a beefed-up version of the Colorado and Toyota is preparing a TRD HiLux that's more than just a limited edition accessories pack.
Volkswagen sells Australia's most expensive ute in the class at just under $70,000 but is planning a power upgrade for its flagship Amarok's turbo diesel V6 to thwart new rivals.
More than half of Australia's top-selling utes are the most expensive versions, costing more than $50,000 - before accessories are added. A decade ago, most utes sold below $50,000.
Pricing announced this week shows even the most basic Mercedes ute will come with a hefty RRP: $45,000 plus on-road costs for unpainted bumpers, a vinyl floor, no ute tub and only two-wheel-drive. The flagship four-cylinder turbo diesel tops $65,000 and the V6 turbo diesel due in June 2018 is expected to exceed $70,000.
FORD RANGER RAPTOR
Ford is going up a gear with the desert-racer-inspired Ranger Raptor. It's due in mid 2018; to date only teaser images have been released.
TOYOTA HILUX TRD
The HiLux Tonka concept was a tease but the new TRD HiLux will get tougher suspension and appearance changes to look gruntier.
Holden's performance car division Holden Special Vehicles will turn its hand to utes once it finishes the last of its allocation of Commodores.
The turbo diesel V6 Amarok is about to get some extra grunt (for the tech heads, close to 190kW of power and 600Nm of torque).
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