By on July 29, 2015

Santa Cruz Crossover Truck Concept

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?

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47 Comments on “Hyundai May Actually Make The Tucson-based Santa Cruz, But…...”

  • avatar

    Go for it, I’d love to see this ridiculous thing bomb hard.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m pretty sure people said the same thing about the Soul…’ll NEVER outsell the Scion they said….

      • 0 avatar

        But the Soul is a pretty conventional people mover with a touch of attitude. The Santa Cruz is a weird pickup, and there’s been no market for that in the US since GM shelved the El Camino three decades ago. I don’t see these selling.

        • 0 avatar

          “But the Soul is a pretty conventional people mover with a touch of attitude.”

          Yeah.. Get the eff outta my way, I gotta find a toilet!

        • 0 avatar

          The “sporty” non-traditional truck look of the Santa Cruz is actually a plus (Hyundai shouldn’t tone down the sheetmetal too much for the production version).

          Aside from its price-point, a big reason why the Ridgeline didn’t sell better (still sold 40-50k during its 1st few years) is due to Honda going with a more traditional truck shape (and an ugly one at that).

          People wanting to buy a pick-up are going to purchase a real truck.

          The Santa Cruz is not meant for the traditional pick-up buyer, but for the active urbanites/suburbanites who want the ability to haul around a couple of bikes, a motorbike, a jet ski, etc. for the weekend (or run errands).

          Things have changed a lot since the Ridgeline launched in 2005 – buyers have increasingly moved to crossovers and esp. small-mid sized crossovers, so there might be a decent market for a smallish trucklet.

          As for the El Camino – only seated 2 and the Brat only had what were basically rear-facing booster seats (in order to evade the chicken tax) so really couldn’t carry 4 adults.

          Not saying that it would be a big seller, but might sell enough to warrant its development.

          Only problem is where to build it as Hyundai is already capacity limited in building the Santa Fe and Tucson.

          Would suck for Kia if Hyundai ended up taking some of the capacity at Kia’s new Mexico plant.

    • 0 avatar
      Dave M.

      I see a safe 30-40000 selling a year – suburban folk who already have a people carrier, and fleets looking for a reliable small cargo runner. Price will matter.

      Great idea.

    • 0 avatar

      It will bomb. Hyundai better off with Mercedes Sprinter competitor

  • avatar

    The chicken tax is being phased out on South Korean imports per the free trade agreement.

    In the meantime, they could avoid the tariff by using knockdown kits if they wish.

    • 0 avatar

      Phased out over time, sure. But they want to bring this thing to market in 2017.

      • 0 avatar

        If I am interpreting the timetable correctly, the tariff rate starts falling in about 2020 and is gone completely by about 2022.

        In any case, they can use knockdown kits. It’s not that big of a deal, particularly as they have existing facilities and could dedicate a portion of their NAFTA assembly to do to work if they choose.

        I should also note that there may be an argument here that it isn’t a truck for tariff purposes, although I would need more details on the specs to feel more certain of that.

        • 0 avatar

          Put a removable cap over the box and some easily removed back seats and call it a Bonco SUV. Ford will never notice the play on words.

        • 0 avatar

          Easily removed back seats would make it a truck.

          The tariff is not actually one of cars vs. trucks, but of “Motor cars and other motor vehicles principally designed for the transport of persons, including station wagons and racing cars” vs. “Motor vehicles for the transport of goods.”

          It is intended to carry four passengers and the bed is small. H/K might be able to make the argument that its primary purpose is to carry people, not goods, which gets the lower tariff. The decision for the 2-door Land Rover Defender 90 might set the precedent for this; it was classed at the lower tariff rate because it carried four people and had limited cargo space.

          And as noted, there won’t be a tariff for much longer, anyway.

    • 0 avatar

      Do what Ford did with the transit connect and just ship it to America with seats in the bed that are thrown out in the US port. The could also create a midgate and allow the current rear seats to slide into bed…

  • avatar

    I had thought it was a legal requirement for every new carmaker to deliver a shitty truck to the USA? VW, Subaru, Honda…?

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    Will it sell? Absolutely. Every car for sale sells.
    Will they sell 50,000? No.

    This would be popular for a year or two then start to wane. However I frankly didn’t see the Transit having so much success in the US after the death of the Econoline. So I could be wrong.

    But the point is, it needs to be set up to sell commercially or they shouldn’t bother. Of course, mixed in with that should be a hot example for the kids to buy.

    Would I buy one? Sure, I don’t see why I wouldn’t. Will I buy one? Probably not.

  • avatar

    I like it. Call it the “El Kimchino”.

  • avatar
    Louis XVI

    They’ve gotta change the name of this thing. This . . . vehicle is the least Santa Cruz-like thing I’ve ever seen. Maybe it can be the Hyundai Fresno instead?

  • avatar

    It’s interesting to me that this thing looks a lot like a more butch version of the next Honda Ridgeline, at least if the Honda’s renderings are to be believed.

    If the American public won’t accept a unibody compact pickup from Honda, why would they warm up to one from Hyundai?

  • avatar

    Quality control inspector: “Hey, you missed a few spots!”
    Line worker: “I know, but we ran out of the special Silver-Bronze Paint. But we still have a bit of yellow…”

  • avatar
    Rental Man

    For the right price, it will sell. Many. Must have 4 cly and decent MPG for all the non truck buyers out there who could use a small bed and not buy a huge truck or a stripped version of an old pick up.
    We like outdoor activities, hall household items and do our own yard work. AWD in the winter will be perfect.

    If Hyundai brings it in, I will get me one. I have never committed to that.

    Things change. Jeep never sold 4 door Wranglers. Now they can’t keep them in stock. AWD / 4WD has been available for years in sedan, coupes and what became SUV’s. One day the market caught up. Same will happen here.

  • avatar

    Who knows WHAT is in the Super-secret Trade Deal that Obama and the RINOs got through Congress, so the chicken tax may be a dead duck now…

    • 0 avatar

      There’s a super secret website called Google that will lead the audacious reader to the terms of the free trade agreement, including the phase out of the truck tariff.

      • 0 avatar
        an innocent man

        Has the text been officially released? I thought it was still classified. I’ll have to look later.

        • 0 avatar

          The agreement has been in effect for three years. It is posted online.

          And as it turns out, the chicken tax is being phased out in ten equal installments. Based upon that, it should now be down to 15% and falling each January 1.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    I might buy one. I think if the bed is just a little bit bigger than a Subaru Brat or Ford Explorer Sport it would sell. I don’t really care if it is a uni-body because I would use it for light hauling. I have a bigger truck.

  • avatar

    Red Bull will buy a 100 or so, to carry an oversized can in. As for the thousands of internet commenters that say they would buy one if they build it about 27 or 28 of them will actually buy one per month for the first 15-18 months and then pretty much everyone who wants one and will actually buy a new vehicle will have theirs and sales will start to drop.

    • 0 avatar

      Indeed, the only Suzuki X-90 ever saw was one with a Red Bull can mounting the poor little thing.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al From 'Murica

      Commenters here won’t buy it. They will all say they will but after it goes on sale there will be some meaningless detail that disqualifies it followed by years of “I wanted to buy one but the bet was a quarter of an inch too short” posts.

      • 0 avatar

        Well, it *is* just a potentially cool toy (sans clown wheels and punched-in flanks) that could also be an economical DD. But that’s all it is and most of us are too scared sh1tless about the future to buy 24K toys.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al From 'Murica

      And since the Chicken Tax was mentioned I know the Oz Al will show up so let me be the first to tell him to stick it!

  • avatar
    jim brewer

    Well, I can see Mexican production. Something like this might do pretty well in Mexico in addition to the US.

    I agree with the commenter who said that it should be available in a ‘business’configuration. That would help it gain a steadier market. Since it’s a truck that would lend street cred to the project.

    That bed looks a tad small; It should be large enough to accommodate the largest touring bicycle at least.

  • avatar

    This is the genius of the Best & Brightest. If it doesn’t sell, they’re right. If it does sell, the buyers are suckers who should have bought a full-size truck, so it doesn’t count anyway, or something other than “we were wrong”. Genius.

  • avatar

    Maybe it’s a coincidence but Hyundai brought the Santa Cruz concept to the Concours of America at St John’s this weekend and put it in the tent/booth where media had to pick up our credentials.

  • avatar

    Looks way too close to being a pickup version of the old Isuzu VehiCROSS, which didn’t exactly sell that well. Of course, the VehiCROSS had a lot of expensive standard equipment that ratcheted the price up into the stratosphere, too, so maybe if Hyundai can keep the price of this down in the same market as the Soul, it might do okay.

    • 0 avatar

      The VehiCROSS was indeed too expensive, and wore an interior years older than it should have (from the Rodeo) because Isuzu was poor. It also had zero color choice.

      All these things made it very niche.

  • avatar
    Daniel J

    Interesting vehicle. If it gets decent MPGs and handles well(not like a truck) then I might be interested.

  • avatar

    If it (and he) will fit, I’m sure at least some fatso will buy it to avoid having to push his trashcan 200 feet down his driveway once a week. Beats the heck out of folding down the seats and taping the lid, just to stuff it into the back of a minivan. What some Americans won’t go through, to save them from the burden of having to walk the occasional step…..

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