By on August 16, 2016

2015 Hyundai Santa Cruz ConceptHyundai Motor America CEO Dave Zuchowski is making a name for himself as a worthy successor to the frank-talking John Krafcik. Not hiding behind PR caution or fear of tipping off competitors, Zuchowski told Wards Auto that Hyundai is getting ever closer to a decision on the Santa Cruz.

“It’s definitely making progress,” Zuchowski told Wards in an otherwise crossover-centric interview. Introduced as a small pickup truck concept at 2015’s North American International Auto Show in Detroit, the Hyundai Santa Cruz whetted the appetite of a surging non-full-size pickup truck market. The green light the Santa Cruz has been waiting for, however, is not yet shining bright. Not quite yet.

The five non-full-size pickup trucks currently available in the United States are decidedly largeish. Even the lone unibody pickup, the Honda Ridgeline, is 210 inches long and weighs more than 4,500 pounds.

The Santa Cruz, on the other hand, is a tidy truck. Hyundai believes it would attack a different section of the market than the Ridgeline. Hyundai also believes more than 40,000 copies of the Santa Cruz would need to be sold on an annual basis to justify its presence.2015 Hyundai Santa Cruz ConceptWe’ve been hearing indications that Hyundai was about to give the official go-ahead for more than a year. It’s apparently not easy determining just what a production Santa Cruz would look like, how many Hyundai could sell, how it would fit in Hyundai’s lineup, or how it would be targeted in the broader market.

Hyundai Santa Cruz, Subcompact Crossover Close To Production,” a TTAC headline said in May 2015.

Two months later, “Hyundai May Actually Make The Tucson-based Santa Cruz, But…

In fact, Cars.com was already confirming Santa Cruz production as a done deal earlier this year.

Meanwhile, Hyundai boss Zuchowski only recently told Wards, “It’s still not officially greenlit.” But after Hyundai Motor America’s vice president for corporate and product planning travelled to Korea for a “design review”, Zuchowski confirms, “A tremendous amount of work is being done on it.”

Zuchowski’s discussion with Wards also delved into some details related to Hyundai’s crossover strategy. “Right now we offer three crossovers that have some overlap in terms of price and package and aren’t directly in the sweet spot of any one of the segments,” Zuchowski said in reference to the Tucson, Santa Fe Sport, and Santa Fe.

A realignment of the hierarchy will also involve the launch of a subcompact crossover to take on the Honda HR-V, Chevrolet Trax, and other members of the nascent CUV B-segment. By choosing to forego the global Creta in North America, Hyundai is 18 months off the pace.

[Images: Hyundai]

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50 Comments on “Hyundai U.S. CEO Stokes Santa Cruz Hype, Small Pickup Truck Fans Rejoice...”


  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    My only questions are V6 or Turbo 4? Base price for a model with AWD?

    If Toyota is selling all they can build, if the Frontier is way up (on an ancient platform), and the Ridgeline is going gangbusters…

    WHY NOT HYUNDAI?

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Ain’t no way they put a V6 in there. It’d get the 2.4NA or the 2.0T from the Santa Fe Sport I bet. Base model AWD, $27,995.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        Here’s a question for our data geeks.

        The Santa Cruz would be Tuscon based, right? Trim to trim what is the price difference between a Pilot and a Ridgeline? That should give us some sort of a guideline for how Hyundai might try pricing if the Santa Cruz were to exist.

        • 0 avatar
          Pch101

          “Trim to trim what is the price difference between a Pilot and a Ridgeline?”

          The Pilot and Ridgeline are larger vehicles with base MSRPs that start at about $30k. The Tucson is a compact that starts in the low $20s. They’re not particularly comparable.

          If the Tucson is expected to hit sales levels of about 100k units and the Santa Cruz has to be at minimum in the 40k unit range in order to make it worthwhile, then I would expect that the Santa Cruz would need to be positioned at a slight price premium above the Tucson. (More margin is needed to make up for the lower volume.) So I will guess that probably means a starting MSRP somewhere in the mid-$20k in today’s dollars.

          It would be more similar to a Subaru BRAT or VW Rabbit pickup than to a Ridgeline. More of a outdoor lifestyle vehicle than a rugged truck, which probably brings us back to going for a Subaru-type audience. Possibly the Kia Soul crowd, with youthful marketing.

          • 0 avatar
            PrincipalDan

            I actually meant % difference. I.E. Base Ridgeline is $29,475 vs base Pilot at $30,345. That is roughly a 3% difference in price.

            So if a Santa Cruz was Santa Fe based the Santa Fe is $30,800, a Santa Cruz starting at roughly $29,876 wouldn’t be unreasonable.

            I think this is a product that could have a market, at the right price.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            A Santa Cruz would be a compact. $30k would be too much.

            The price relationship between the Pilot and Ridgeline isn’t really relevant here on a lot of levels. I would expect that the Santa Cruz would have to cost a bit more than the Tucson in order to make up for the lower volume — the R&D and other costs have to be amortized.

            You start with the price/volume combination that needs to be hit just to make it worthwhile, then try to figure out whether people would actually buy that many at that price. If they won’t, then it’s obviously a no-go.

            I’ll bet that it isn’t going to work. But if it has a chance of working, then it probably won’t involve targeting the typical truck buyer.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al from Oz

      Principal Dan,
      According to the article I get the feeling that the Taco and Frontier are not really competing with this.

      The biggest blow is the fact that a market of 40k a year is needed in the US for Hyundai to manufacture them. I think the market size in the US is what is holding back Hyundai.

      What would of been better is if they could be imported and countries like Australia, NZ, Korea, etc can buy 10 or 20 thousand, then the US would only need to sell 20 thousand a year to justify their manufacture.

      But we know why this can’t happen.

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al From 'Murica

        Depends on what platform it is based on. I am thinking this has to be based on the Santa Fe to have any chance for a few reasons. 1. There is already a LWB Santa Fe. You would need the extra length to put any sort of useful bed on it and 2. The Tucson is too small to make this useful. We just purchased a Santa Fe Sport. It is considerably larger than the Tucson. And as you love to throw down the Chicken Tax I’d point out that the Santa Fe is assembled in West Point, GA so that wouldn’t be an issue. USDM Tucsons are Korea built still I think. But the real reason is that it probably wouldn’t sell in sufficient numbers without 4 real seats. Using the 3 row Santa Fe as a basis might provide enough wheelbase to give such a vehicle a bed.

        • 0 avatar
          Pch101

          “the Santa Fe is assembled in West Point, GA so that wouldn’t be an issue.”

          The chicken tax on South Korean imports is being phased out.

        • 0 avatar
          bd2

          Hyundai is looking for the Santa Cruz to have a smaller footprint – so likely going to be on the Tucson platform (there’s no room at the WP factory unless Hyundai does an expansion).

          As for the issue with the bed length, the concept had a bed extender.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    Certainties:

    It’ll be priced too close to a mid-size pickup of similar optioning and everyone now saying they would buy one will say it doesn’t make any sense when the time comes to put their money where their mouth is.

    I would consider one if it had power going to all four wheels somehow and had at least 225tq.

    • 0 avatar
      Kenmore

      It has to be a <20K impulse buy for retirees or it'll be exactly as you say. And no way will it be <20K.

      Consensus: Doomed if it ever even appears. So far, we're just getting string-along.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al from Oz

      Land Ark,
      The prices are forced to not be cheaper. They could be.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al From 'Murica

      Because “buyers” of this sort of vehicle will go to the dealer and find something wrong that rules it out. That something could be anything like:

      I was there, cash in hand ready to buy but it didn’t come in that lime green they used to put on 70’s Porsches with a plaid interior, so I had to pass or:

      I would have gotten it but the parking brake took 6 clicks to engage instead of 4 and that is a nonstarter with me.

      • 0 avatar
        Mandalorian

        Pricing is going to be the Achilles Heel. A niche for an “El Camino” type vehicle probably exists and could easily be filled by one of these, but if it’s priced to similarly to a midsizer it will flop.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        “I was there, cash in hand ready to buy but it didn’t come in that lime green they used to put on 70’s Porsches with a plaid interior, so I had to pass or…”

        I see you’ve visited Obscure Cars For Sale on Facebook.

  • avatar
    energetik9

    For some reason as soon as I saw the picture, the Isuzu Vehicross came to mind.

    • 0 avatar
      RobertRyan

      From reports in Australia, Hyundai in Korea, is not keen to produce this at all. Stating poor return for investment i e. 40,000. Hyundai is much more interested in the booming global ” 1 Tonne” Market, much more expensive, but if they can produce a Hilux Killer, then vastly more profitable. Looking at a decision after 2020
      “Grant noted that Hyundai’s headquarters in Korea is “looking at the vehicle quite seriously, but there is yet to be a commitment to produce” the truck. He added that given the demand for a midsize truck from other markets outside Australia, Hyundai’s global bosses are now more closely looking at producing a truck. Hyundai’s Australian arm has been lobbying for a pickup, given such vehicles constitute 16.5 percent of the domestic market with around 100,000 units sold during the first half of 2016.

      One key detail that Grant pointed out was that the Hyundai pickup would break away somewhat from the Santa Cruz concept, which is more car-like. Instead, it’ll be more rugged to compete with the likes of the Chevrolet Colorado, which is sold as a Holden in Australia. The Santa Cruz concept is small, seats four, and uses a 2.0-liter turbodiesel inline-four rated at 190 hp and 300 lb-ft of torque.”

      • 0 avatar
        bd2

        Seems more like Hyundai Australia looking for a more rugged off-roader and Hyundai contemplating a Hilux competitor (for markets like Australia, the Middle East, Russia, South Asia, etc.) down the road in addition to the Santa Cruz – considering that one of the top US Hyundai execs was in Korea help overseeing a redesign (production version?) of the Santa Cruz.

  • avatar
    Kenmore

    Fokk, would that ever make a sweet little “business coupe” if they gave it a trunk lid! A la the ’30s & 40s big-butt coupes.

    But don’t lower it none!

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      I think they’d find they sell these mainly in two trims.

      1) Loaded AWD, as Ridgeline alternative and something for people who don’t like CRV type looks.

      2) Base FWD, to old dudes who put an awkward cap on the back, and drive them to the Elk Lodge and Bob Evans.

      • 0 avatar
        Kenmore

        “Base FWD, to old dudes”

        Cheap old dudes. Hence the problem as it wouldn’t be cheap.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          The old retirees around me seem to prefer the CRV in gold, the Accord in gold, and the Odyssey Touring/Elite in light blue. And most recently, a new Pacifica – in light blue.

          • 0 avatar
            Kenmore

            Yabbut they’re *old* retirees, not vibrant, dynamic young retirees like I’m gonna be.

            I feel I can speak for my kind and insist on moar dark greens!

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            You’re excluded from the young and dynamic elder community immediately because you’re a smoker. These people have fresh ideas and active yoga lifestyles incompatible with ciggies!

          • 0 avatar
            Kenmore

            Not no more! Quit 20 years ago and have sweet, clear X-rays to prove it! Plus, I eat paleo, yogurt and twigs & bark.

            And my ideas are plenty fresh but it’ll take 10 more years of Western erosion for everyone else to catch up.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Lol, I asked the other day when you stopped smoking, and you said something like “not time yet!”

          • 0 avatar
            Kenmore

            I had edited my comment that prompted you to ask but like Impetuous Youth is wont to be, you was already gone.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            My attention span is long for a Millennial but shortened for work reasons. :)

            Hey look, something shiny!

      • 0 avatar
        pbxtech

        2) Base FWD, to old dudes who put an awkward cap on the back, and drive them to the Elk Lodge and Bob Evans.

        Close; tonneau cover, Elks Lodge and Costco. But yeah, I’ll be buying one if it’s out in time for my next purchase. In blue so my Cubs plates look good on it.

        Or the CRV, CoreyDL you’re kind of creeping me out:)

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          If you go to Costco before dinner, you’re gonna end up in the rush and they probably won’t take yer’ Early Bird coupon!

          LOL, I know old people. I observe them and their habits around where I live.

          Tell me, do you put on khakis and go for a morning stroll yet? Have you got very white New Balance sneakers for this purpose?

  • avatar
    jacob_coulter

    I approve, just make sure it has at least the same bed size as say an El Camino so it can actually be functional.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    I do like the idea of this vehicle. Better still for such a small ute would be a single cab. I think these would be more appealing as a much larger bed could be had.

    I’d like to see this produced. They will be cheaper to manufacture than a midsize due to the unitary constructed bodies and by the use of an existing platform to share costs.

    Best of all would be to allow for their import and prices would definitely be cheaper.

  • avatar
    05lgt

    If they offer an optional surf board rack with an economy 4wd, they’ll sell to enough “opinion leaders” to drive sales to enough youngsters to augment the Costco / Home Depot run special 2wd with tonneau cover base models for retirees. It’s light enough for a DI big 4 to keep it viable with modern transmission options.

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    Where’s the Mahindra pickup now that we really need it?

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    The niche Veloster is selling around 25k/year. [Personally, I think it’s ugly, very tiny inside, and a poor value.]

    If the mythical Santa Cruz could seat 4 comfortably (not likely with the suicide doors), then maybe they’d move Veloster-eque volume.

    To me, this Santa Cruz is more like a Subaru BRAT, which had niche appeal – not 40k/year mainstream appeal.

    • 0 avatar
      SC5door

      And note on how the Veloster hasn’t been updated—Hyundai has no intentions to keep it around much longer here in the states. Also noting that the Veloster is sold globally, this probably would not be. The Accent should be updated for 2017 with corporate design language to keep that platform alive, as noted by the `17 Verna concept shown in India.

      Unless they free up capacity on the Tucson line in Ulsan, this doesn’t have a chance in hell. If it does eventually come out—I’d get one in a heartbeat.

      Still waiting to see if Hyundai decides to bring their commercial vans here or not as they’ve been caught testing here in the states.

  • avatar
    Big Al From 'Murica

    To have any shot at success, it has to resemble a truck more than my wife’s Santa Fe. Don’t be dumb, just make it look like a truck. That is what Americans buy. See the 2nd gen Ridgeline vs the 1st Gen Ridgeline. Same inventive features, but one looks goofy.

    Oh yeah, copy the Ridgelines good stuff. The Trunk, The Tailgate, all that good stuff. Do what Hyundai does…sell stuff in the same ballpark with the Japanese but for less. Don’t try to create a new market. If this arrives as a “lifestyle ute” it fails. If it looks like a truck and can sell on price as Hyundai does it will find a market. Hell they’ll sell a bunch to fleets if they will spec them as such. Hyundai buyers arent so concerened with resale as Honda buyers are. I wouldn’t have gotten it if my wife didn’t hang on to her car for 10 years or so so resale isnt a huge deal. Orkin buying a bunch of these in fleet spec doesnn’t hurt Hyundai like it does Honda.

    Just make it a Ridgeline, but with base trims available and leverage the SWB Santa Fe to build a regular cab cheapo model for fleet usage.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al From 'Murica

      Think the Ranger market that Ford left, but with some more upscale trims and a real 4 door option. No, that isn’t the most profitable niche but it might get a foothold in the truck market and it can still turn some profit, albeit less than a King Ranch but still a profit and basing it on the Santa fe should make it cheaper to build.

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        All I want is a Ranger with a modern engine and safety features. Everything else about that truck is fine as-is.

        6′ bed for bikes, yard stuff, appliances, camping, etc. It will never be used for heavy-duty anything.
        Low height that allows all items to be lifted over the edge of the bed.
        ~200″ OAL
        ~3600 lb
        2.5L ~185 hp & ~185 lb-ft delivering mid-20s mpg combined
        A slightly extended cab with clam shell doors is great, but no full size second row. It is a weekend truck, a second car–not a family mover.
        No luxury interior items: no soft touch, leather, touch screens, etc.
        Starting price comparable to a CUV.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      Think for its intended market, something sportier like the Santa Cruz concept is perfect.

      The 1st Ridgeline was just weird looking and while the new one is more traditional pick-up looking, it’s drab.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    Automakers often fantasize (and tease) of profitable (break even) pickups in their lineups, but don’t they realize it’s “Fleet Sales” that make or break a pickup? Plus multi-cabs and virtually endless configurations/combinations of beds, engines, packages, 4wd, trannies, etc?

    With anything else, hoping to strike a cord with “Retail” only, niche buyers, would go down in history (with parking at Davy Jones’ Locker) next to the EL Camino, Ranchero, BAJA, Avalanche, etc, shipwrecks.

    They’re just a bad business plan waiting to happen. Car-based pickups, you can bet they’ll heavily cannibalize other cars, some highly profitable, sharing the same platform and showroom.

    I’m sure Hyundai and others on the ‘fence’, can dream up better ways to shoot themselves in the foot, the Vulpii demo be damned.

  • avatar
    GoFaster58

    Is it a small truck or a mid-size truck? The old Ranger was a small truck. The new Colorado’s are mid-size. I’d rather have the small size truck. Listening Ford?

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    I’ll put it this way: If they screw with the size to make it bigger and screw with the looks to make it look just like any other pickup truck, it will be an absolute failure. If they keep it looking like a chopped-back CUV and keep its overall size where it is, it will take a huge bite out of the CUV business.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    I wouldn’t mind one of these but I would like the bed a little longer and not too tarted up to where the price is as high as a larger truck. Add about another foot to the bed and make it an extended cab instead of a crew and offer it with a 6 speed manual and cloth seats. I can live with the current midsize trucks but if this were a little smaller and came equipped like what I stated above I might buy it.

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