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Why the Kia Tasman Pickup Probably Won't Come to the U.S.

It all comes down to the chicken tax

Kia Tasman truck teaser
  • Kia has officially teased its new midsize pickup truck, the Tasman.
  • That colorful camouflage looks cool, though we can clearly see the Tasman's upright shape underneath that wrap.
  • The Tasman will launch in 2025, but it's unclear if this truck will be sold in the U.S.

Kia teased its new Tasman pickup this week, a truck that will go into production next year and will be sold in several countries around the world. Is the United States included in that list? Not currently. So, let's talk about why.

Perhaps you've heard of the chicken tax. Introduced in 1964, the chicken tax is a mandatory 25% tariff on light trucks imported to the U.S. It was originally issued by President Lyndon B. Johnson as a way to get back at European-imposed tariffs on chickens imported from America, hence the weird name. And while trade relationships between the U.S. and Europe have certainly improved since the '60s, the chicken tax remains.

That means automakers looking to sell light trucks in America are smart to build them locally in order to avoid this additional 25% price hike. Some companies have even tried to skirt the tariff; Ford used to import the Turkish-built Transit Connect with its optional rear seats installed, so the vehicle would be classified as a passenger van. Ford would then remove the seats to sell the Transit Connect as a cargo van. The company ended up having to pay $365 million in penalties for this (admittedly clever) scheme.

Kia's only manufacturing site in the U.S. is its West Point, Georgia, facility, which builds the Sorento, Sportage and Telluride SUVs The plant is already churning out 350,000 vehicles a year in West Point, operating three shifts a day, 24 hours a day, and was recently given a $200 million expansion investment to add production of the new EV9 SUV.

Without a local facility where it could build the Tasman, importing this truck to the U.S. would make it significantly more expensive than its rivals. For now, Kia says the Tasman will launch in 2025 and will be sold in Africa, Australia, Korea and the Middle East.

Edmunds says

The U.S. might be an ideal market in which to launch a pickup truck, but without the ability to offer competitive pricing, it makes sense for Kia to keep this vehicle a piece of forbidden fruit for now.