Pickups Still a Go! Hyundai and Kia Pickups a No?
Automotive News (which, by the way, is free this week for non-subscribers) is reporting two very interesting bits of news about the new Asian truck invasion, or lack thereof.
India's Mahindra & Mahindra is on track to start importing and selling compact diesel pickups in the United States by early 2009 - promising to, "price them as low as any pickups now on the market." And that vow includes the cost of a 25% tariff added to pickups manufactured overseas and shipped into the U.S..
M&M execs had met with Georgia governor Sonny Perdue in April to discuss building a U.S. plant that would have avoided the "chicken tax", but Automotive News says Mahindra's automotive sector president, Pawan Goenka, told them a U.S. factory is no longer being considered.
Mr. Goenka said, "The fixed overhead of setting up a plant in the U.S. is very, very high. And with the kind of volume we foresee now, that is not a viable option."
M&M plans to offer three different pickups - one regular cab and two crew cabs.
Mahindra's American import and distribution arm, Global Vehicles U.S.A. describes the trucks on its website as:
Regular Cab Two Door: "This no frills work horse is a stallion, a well equipped truck that spoils the workers that drive it. Rugged, luxurious, and dependable; not qualities you usually find in a Pick-up. It will make short work of most dirty jobs with out breaking a sweat."
Crew Cab Four Door: "Truck or SUV, you decide, this vehicle offers the best of both worlds. It can haul lumber or be used for a night on the town. Comfortably seating five this truck can make short work down on the farm before spending a night boot-scooting around town."
Crew Cab Four Door EX: "Mean, refined, and extreme; all can be used to describe this awesome vehicle. It has a knack for finding the road less traveled and beating it into submission. Featuring 4WD, full leather, and a knarly light bar; this vehicle came to play and wipeout anything that stands in its way."
All the trucks will be powered by a four-cylinder common-rail diesel paired with a 6-speed automatic transmission. M&M promises fuel economy between 28-35 miles per gallon and has teamed up with Bosch and Michigan-based AVL to develop clean diesel technology to meet tough U.S. emissions requirements.
Mahindra is also promising a 60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty.
But while M&M has decided to accept the tariff added to import its pickups into the U.S., Automotive News is also reporting a rumor that South Korea's Big Two - Hyundai and Kia - have decided not to enter the U.S. pickup truck market.
AN quotes a Kia source who says, "Neither Hyundai nor Kia is considering a pickup truck. A truck is absolutely off the radar screen."
What's so bizarre about this news is that South Korea recently signed a free trade pact with the U.S. that phases out the "chicken tax" for pickups built in Korea by 2017. And both Hyundai and Kia management, including Kia's president, have officially stated they wanted to build pickups for American consumers. Plus, there have also been recent sightings of Kia's new Mesa full size, body-on-frame SUV. Why build a body-on-frame SUV and not a BOF pickup?
Our take is that Kia and Hyundai are trying to throw their competitors off the scent of their continued full and midsize pickup efforts.