CHICAGO – Kia Motors America Inc. is using the Chicago Auto Show to lobby for the top items on its wish list: a pickup truck and more capacity.

Kia showed its KCV-4 Mojave pickup concept at Chicago with a clear message that although it currently isn’t destined for production, there’s nothing the U.S. arm of the South Korean auto maker wants more.

The reason the midsize pickup isn’t immediately heading for production is because there’s nowhere to build it, says KMA President and CEO Peter Butterfield.

The concept pickup is based on an extended platform of the auto maker’s popular Sorento SUV, which like all Kia vehicles sold in the U.S. is built in South Korea.

“We sold every one we could get from a bursting factory just trying to keep up,” Butterfield says.

Kia is looking for a way to build its Mojave concept.

And even if there was room at the plant, U.S. duties on imported pickup trucks realistically preclude the Mojave from being built offshore.

“If in fact we build it, it’s only logical to build something in North America because of import restrictions,” Butterfield says.

He says there’s no decision on the truck, or on plans for Kia to go forward with a manufacturing facility in North America. Butterfield refutes speculation that there may be room for Kia to assemble vehicles at Hyundai Motor Co. Ltd.’s forthcoming plant in Alabama that next year begins building the Santa Fe cross/utility vehicle and Sonata midsize sedan.

Hyundai has spoken for the entire projected 300,000 units of annual capacity. Plus, Kia SUVs are truck-based body-on-frame, while Hyundai’s Santa Fe is of unibody construction, built on a car platform. Hyundai officials have gone so far as to say the difference between car-based and truck-based utility vehicles will become one of the main distinctions between the related South Korean auto makers.

The Mojave concept truck aims for a traditional exterior design paired with a progressive, Generation-Y directed interior, Kia says. Innovations include butterfly-opening doors and the absence of a B-pillar for ease of entry; a flip-up rear window; and a power-operated rear seat that can push forward for extra-long cargo, extending the bed from 71 ins. (180 cm) to 86 ins. (218 cm).

The concept is powered by a 3.8L V-6 that puts out 280 hp, paired with a 5-speed automatic transmission.

Despite the capacity quandary, KMA will research whether a pickup such as the Mojave would be a success in the U.S. Research begins here, with the reactions of consumers and journalists at the Chicago Auto Show. Over the next few months, the auto maker will conduct focus groups, Butterfield says.

A strong positive reaction could lead to KMA’s wishes coming true.

Meanwhile, KMA announces prices for its new ’04 Spectra 4-door sedan. It will base at $12,620, not including a $540 destination charge. Two trim levels are available, entry LX and EX, which starts at $13,750 and includes air conditioning, remote entry, power windows and locks, heated outside mirrors and fog lamps. An automatic transmission takes the LX to $13,595 and the EX to $14,725.

kzachary@primediabusiness.com