Hyundai U.S. CEO Stokes Santa Cruz Hype, Small Pickup Truck Fans Rejoice

Timothy Cain
by Timothy Cain
hyundai u s ceo stokes santa cruz hype small pickup truck fans rejoice

Hyundai 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.

We’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, 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]

Join the conversation
2 of 50 comments
  • Vulpine Vulpine on Aug 17, 2016

    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.

  • Jeff S Jeff S on Aug 17, 2016

    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.

  • Art Vandelay Best? PCH from Ventura to somewhere near Lompoc. Most Famous? Route Irish
  • GT Ross The black wheel fad cannot die soon enough for me.
  • Brett Woods My 4-Runner had a manual with the 4-cylinder. It was acceptable but not really fun. I have thought before that auto with a six cylinder would have been smoother, more comfortable, and need less maintenance. Ditto my 4 banger manual Japanese pick-up. Nowhere near as nice as a GM with auto and six cylinders that I tried a bit later. Drove with a U.S. buddy who got one of the first C8s. He said he didn't even consider a manual. There was an article about how fewer than ten percent of buyers optioned a manual in the U.S. when they were available. Visited my English cousin who lived in a hilly suburb and she had a manual Range Rover and said she never even considered an automatic. That's culture for you.  Miata, Boxster, Mustang, Corvette and Camaro; I only want manual but I can see both sides of the argument for a Mustang, Camaro or Challenger. Once you get past a certain size and weight, cruising with automatic is a better dynamic. A dual clutch automatic is smoother, faster, probably more reliable, and still allows you to select and hold a gear. When you get these vehicles with a high performance envelope, dual-clutch automatic is what brings home the numbers. 
  • ToolGuy 2019 had better comments than 2023 😉
  • Inside Looking Out In June 1973, Leonid Brezhnev arrived in Washington for his second summit meeting with President Richard Nixon. Knowing of the Soviet leader’s fondness for luxury automobiles, Nixon gave him a shiny Lincoln Continental. Brezhnev was delighted with the present and insisted on taking a spin around Camp David, speeding through turns while the president nervously asked him to slow down.