Hyundai America chief Dave Zuchowski told Car and Driver that he expects the Santa Cruz Concept, seen here, to be given the go-ahead from Korean bosses this year.
That means the Subaru Brat-inspired pickup, based on the Hyundai Tucson, could go on sale sometime soon, for which you can pay actual money for a real one of these (maybe with a diesel!) compact pickups. However, the pickup’s viability hinges on a couple key points.
The concept, which was unveiled in Detroit last year, was received very well by most accounts. But that may not be what spurs Hyundai into making it. The recent crossover and pickup boom leaves Hyundai’s sedan-focused fleet a little high and dry, C&D correctly points out. Variants based on their few crossovers could come fast and furious from the Korean automaker.
However, the challenges with bringing the Santa Cruz are its form factor and what sits underneath its stylish skin.
For starters, the pickup is … well, a pickup. To get around the dreaded Chicken Tax, Hyundai will have to build the Santa Cruz within the NAFTA zone or face a 25-percent tariff upon importation to the United States.
The next problem compounds the first: The Tucson, on which the Santa Cruz is based, is only built outside the NAFTA zone. Currently, the only vehicles Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama builds are the Elantra and Sonata. Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia builds the only American-assembled Hyundai, the Santa Fe.
Looking south of the border might be the solution. Kia is set to open a new facility in Mexico in 2016 that’s tipped to assemble sub-compact and compact cars, as well as crossovers.
If the concept does get the greenlight from decision makers in South Korea, it’s unclear what from the concept will make it to the production model. The yellow Brembo brakes and side-view mirror accents may get left on the floor, but its diesel engine could survive. The engine in the concept was a 2-liter, turbocharged oil burner that made 190 horsepower and 300 pound-feet of torque. It could be a smaller-displacement version lifted from a Santa Fe — or complete fantasy.
In Detroit, Hyundai hinted that it could get a gas-powered option, but didn’t specify if that would be the 2.4-liter naturally aspirated engine or the company’s 2-liter turbo.
Apparently we won’t have to wait long to find out with a decision expected in November. But how many can they realistically sell?