Everything We Know About Kia's Upcoming Pickup Truck

The arrival of a pickup truck from South Korean automaker Kia has been the subject of speculation for years. As far back as 2004, the company teased a concept truck that never came to fruition. Fast-forward to Kia's Investor Day in March 2022, where the automaker announced the development of not one but two electric pickup trucks as part of its ambitious goal to roll out 14 new electric vehicles by 2027.

One of the trucks will be a traditional pickup and the other will be engineered for "emerging markets," presumably a more compact truck or ute. In late-2022, a Kia vehicle with a truck bed was photographed by journalists while testing in the wild. Although the test vehicle was heavily disguised, it was obviously a four-door crew cab pickup that appeared to share numerous styling elements with Kia's Mohave SUV.

The Mohave, which isn't sold in the United States, uses sturdy body-on-frame architecture and is powered by a 3.0-liter diesel engine with an 8-speed automatic transmission and available all-wheel drive. This sounds like the perfect recipe for a midsize truck to compete with the likes of the Ford Ranger, Toyota Tacoma, and others — except that much like the Mohave SUV on which it's potentially based, Kia may not sell the new midsize truck on American shores.

It might not resemble the Mohave at all

Even though a test mule was spotted in Mohave guise, some Kia fans believe that this vehicle was either intended to deceive the public about the true appearance of Kia's truck or, if genuine, the Mohave-derived truck may be the smaller model that's intended for overseas markets. According to Car Scoops, an informed but anonymous source indicated that the flagship truck will have fresh styling unlike any existing Kia model, with an angular "three-box" design and vertical LED headlamps set far apart to establish a sense of width. There's reportedly also a pair of wide-set fog lights recessed into the bumper, which seems to be mounted quite high to accommodate aggressive approach angles for off-road driving.

Assuming the leak is accurate, there are oversized tires concealed by chunky protruding fender flares, reminiscent of Jeep's Gladiator pickup. Compared to the rugged exterior, Car Scoop's source says that the cabin will be sleek and minimalistic, with seating for five and the requisite dose of technology such as dual 12-inch screens and wireless smartphone charging. 

Australian automotive website PerformanceDrive gives us a look at what the Kia truck's powertrains may look like. Based on additional insider info, the newly designed pickup is expected to have three different powertrains: a turbocharged diesel 4-cylinder, a turbocharged gasoline-powered 4-cylinder, and the aforementioned all-electric version, which is said to boast an impressive towing capacity of more than 7,000 pounds. 

Blame US availability on the chicken tax

If the Kia truck, in whatever form it takes, is withheld from the American market, it'll be partly due to the "Chicken Tax." Investopedia defines the Chicken Tax as a "25% tariff on light trucks imported to the U.S." The tariff was issued by President Johnson in 1964 "as retaliation for European tariffs on American chicken imports." Although many other barriers to trade have been toppled in the last 60 years, the Chicken Tax is still around. So, in order for the pickup to reach maximum profitably for Kia while remaining price-competitive, it would need to be manufactured in North America.

As far as the highly-touted all-electric aspect of the truck, little is known. Depending on who you listen to, it could be an adaptation from an existing ICE SUV in Kia's lineup such as the Mohave or Telluride. Or like the 2024 Kona, it might be designed as a BEV first and foremost, then retrofitted with ICE powertrains.

The recent release of information about Kia's new EV9 (above) three-row electric SUV could hold some valuable clues. Similar in size to the Telluride, the EV9 will be offered in an RWD configuration with 201 to 214 horsepower or an AWD version with 379 horsepower. Theoretically, the truck could ride on Hyundai's 800-volt E-GMP platform, as does the EV9, rendering the Mohave-looking test mule nothing more than smoke and mirrors. At the end of the day, we're left with more questions than answers about the long-awaited Kia truck. But with an expected launch date sometime in 2024, it shouldn't be too much longer until concrete details emerge. After all, we've already been waiting 18 years.