Can Hyundai USA Sell 50,000 Copies Of The Santa Cruz Per Year?

Timothy Cain
by Timothy Cain
can hyundai usa sell 50 000 copies of the santa cruz per year
“There is a very high probability we get the approval of the truck soon.” – Dave Zuchowski, CEO of Hyundai Motor America.

In a sense, the debut of the Santa Cruz Concept at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit this past January was surprising because of its level of production readiness and execution. On the other hand, to those who were aware Hyundai had for years been contemplating the idea of a pickup truck, the Santa Cruz wasn’t a shock at all.

Now, with word that Hyundai is likely to soon green-light production, the case for marketplace success is quickly called up for debate. Even with the arrival of new midsize pickup trucks from General Motors, the non-full-size pickup truck market remains relatively small at just 15% of the overall pickup truck category and 2.2% of the overall industry’s volume through the first four months of 2015.


But, the advocates will say, a production Santa Cruz wouldn’t be a traditional pickup truck. Hyundai knows better than to whittle a decade away in the full-size genre like Nissan has with the Titan. The Santa Cruz will likely be a sibling to the third-generation Hyundai Tucson.

Forget V8 power, the Santa Cruz wouldn’t likely even see a V6. In fact, the concept was fitted with a 2.0L four-cylinder diesel engine pumping out 190 horsepower and 300 lb-ft of torque. (A 2.2L four-cylinder diesel, standard in the Hyundai Santa Fe across the pond, generates 194 horsepower and 311 lb-ft of torque.) It’s what the truck market’s been missing, Santa Cruz proponents will say. The reason trucks account for 14% of U.S. auto sales now, down from 19% in 2004, is because truly small pickups like the Ford Ranger and Subaru Baja are dead and buried.

After all, Americans will likely register more than 2.5 million new pickup trucks in 2015. If Americans could buy 670,000 non-full-size pickups this year as they did in 2004 (rather than the 380,000 they’re likely to), pickups would be just as common now as they were then. If only they could buy them, say the supporters of truly small trucks, they would. The buyers are out there, if only there was a product that suited them to a tee. Not a nearly-full-size truck like the new Colorado, but a truck that’s more suitable for weekend fun than it is for week-long work.

They may be right. Hyundai Motor America boss of product planning, Mike O’Brien, believes the Santa Cruz could do Tucson-like sales volume in the United States. That won’t provide the crazy full-size figures of the Ford F-Series or even GMC’s Sierra, but Hyundai averaged 46,300 annual Tucson sales over the last four years. In a market that’s eating up high-riding vehicles, Hyundai is a car-focussed company that could certainly use another 46,000 sales from its “light truck” portfolio.


But, naysayers point out, isn’t 46,000 a big number for a small truck in an America that loves full-size pickups?

Subaru sold 33,132 Outback-based Bajas in total over more than five years. True, the Subaru of 2002 was not the force that Subaru is now, but the Baja is as much a comparable historical vehicle with the Santa Cruz as there is. You can also consider the Honda Ridgeline: like the Hyundai concept, the Ridgeline isn’t a body-on-frame vehicle, but it was sold by a large automaker with proven underpinnings. The Ridgeline’s best sales year: 2006, when 50,193 were sold. But even during its healthiest span of time, between 2005 and 2007, Honda averaged only 45,000 annual Ridgeline sales.

Indeed, other automakers have considered the idea and set it aside. Remember the Dodge Rampage Concept, the GMC Denali XT Concept, and the Toyota A-Bat Concept? They didn’t make it, and the business case likely had an awful lot to do with it.


Depending on your perspective, history is either firmly on the Santa Cruz’s side or completely against it. As presented in Detroit, the Hyundai Santa Cruz undoubtedly is not like anything else. That’s a formula that buried the Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet but exalted the Subaru Outback.

Timothy Cain is the founder of, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. Follow on Twitter @goodcarbadcar and on Facebook.

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2 of 132 comments
  • TonyJZX TonyJZX on May 28, 2015

    I unashamedly like the look of that. However the pragmatist inside me says that the CUV version of that is much more practical and suitable for my lifestyle. I can use a little jacked up CUV. I love the look of the little toy Tonka truck but that stunted tray is pretty useless. I may have to shift a sofa or a 50" LCD or some drywall or a door and thats where a CUV with the seats folded down makes sense. This CLEARLY does not.

  • Spartan Spartan on May 28, 2015

    Well, I'm sure Kia Bongo / Hyundai Porter owners in Korea would like something a bit nicer. Oh yea, Ssangyong Actyon Sports owners would probably want something a little nicer as well :)

  • ScarecrowRepair How much is the $ub$cription for those facing seats? How much extra to have both face backwards, or to have a button to switch the facing-in seats to face outwards when the kids' arguments get too distracting? Is there an option to be sideways facing each other?
  • Ajla The problem with "gushing" Genesis reviews is that they seem to take place in a world where the only cars are Genesis and the 1999 Kia Sephia. Is this better than an S-Class, 7-series, LS500, A8, Lucid Air, or Panamera Executive? Or is everyone the prettiest girl in town?
  • Lou_BC Don't miss AM or FM radio at all. I don't miss satellite radio either. Spotify or downloaded content on my cell is all I need.
  • Lou_BC I see plenty of these around. Most small delivery companies in my town are using tiny cars like the Kia Soul with a rear seat delete and a flat pan installed.
  • Lou_BC Chevy is killing the Camaro and the Challenger is on it's way out. Ford will have this market to themselves.