Two Years Later, Hyundai Still Won't Confirm Santa Cruz Pickup Production

Timothy Cain
by Timothy Cain

Two years have passed since Hyundai dropped the Santa Cruz Crossover Truck Concept at 2015’s North American International Auto Show.

A small, stylish, affordable, diesel-powered trucklet? Give’er the green light, the internet says.

Hyundai has consistently supplied plenty of information in the 24 months since the truck’s debut to stoke Santa Cruz-oriented hype. “There is a very high probability we get the approval of the truck soon,” now-departed Hyundai USA boss Dave Zuchowski said 20 months ago.

Soon? Clearly not.

Acknowledging Hyundai is “working as hard as we can to make it happen,” Hyundai’s vice president of corporate and product planning, Mike O’Brien, told Car And Driver that Hyundai is still not entirely certain the Santa Cruz is bound for production.

As Hyundai’s been doing for the last two years, O’Brien pointed to a number of factors in support of eventual Santa Cruz production.

First, the market needs a pickup truck rated at more than 30 miles per gallon. Second, young urbanites “don’t need 7,000 pounds’ worth of towing,” O’Brien told C/D. As for Hyundai’s vice chairman Chung Eui-sun, “He wants that car,” O’Brien says.

Production limitations, meanwhile, continue to be a problem for Hyundai’s light-truck division. Believing that more production capacity would be required just to meet Tucson, Santa Fe Sport, and Santa Fe demand, O’Brien admits the need for further investment.

Without the Go order yet given to the Santa Cruz, the next vehicles Hyundai displays at auto shows in North America clearly won’t be tiny pickup trucks. At the Chicago show in February, O’Brien says Hyundai will be launching an as-yet-unknown new vehicle. Hyundai’s North American debut of the Elantra-related RN30 Concept (from last year’s Paris show) will take place this week at the 2017 Montreal Auto Show.

But a Santa Cruz? Despite everything we’ve heard before, nope. At least, not yet.

“We’re waiting more for an announcement than we are for an approval, right?,” former Hyundai USA boss Dave Zuchowski told Australian reporters one year ago, leading to headlines like, “Hyundai Greenlights Pickup,” at

“It’s been advanced as we understand it,” Hyundai Australia’s COO, Scott Grant, told CarAdvice last July.

“We have made the decision,” Zuchowski told Motor Trend last August. “We have not made the announcement.”

“Hyundai Santa Cruz pickup getting hauled into showrooms in 2018,” Fox News reported the same month, based on those statements. TTAC, too, said the Santa Cruz is, “ absolutely going to happen.”

Regardless of what Hyundai has led us to believe in the past, we’ve now learned that Hyundai is not yet ready to pull the trigger. The belief that roughly 50,000 Santa Cruz pickups would need to find U.S. homes per year should be a leading cause of caution and delay.

50,000? That’s a level of success American Honda’s Ridgeline has only encountered once.

[Images: Hyundai]

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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  • Clueless Economist Clueless Economist on Jan 18, 2017

    I think maybe the old farts here are missing the appeal. It isn't for you who need a truck to do truck stuff or at least think you need a truck to do truck stuff. It is for a younger demographic who wants a lifestyle vehicle but doesn't want a CUV. CUVs have become young soccer mom vehicle of choice. A non married 28 year old does not want to be driving the same vehicle as his older sister with two kids. While I don't fit that demographic, I don't need a big truck and I don't want a CUV. I just want to sit up higher and have the utility of throwing a few small things I picked up at Home Depot in the back.

    • See 1 previous
    • Clueless Economist Clueless Economist on Jan 18, 2017

      @Vulpine same here. old fart who wants one

  • Jsk Jsk on Feb 12, 2017

    For the last 7 years I've been driving a 2005 Subaru Baja, which was the last truck-car hybrid made. It's the best vehicle I've ever owned, and I've lost count of how many I've owned. To this day I regularly get stopped in mall and supermarket parking lots by people who offer me more cash on the spot for the car than it cost new. So in my opinion the idea that there isn't a market for the Santa Cruz is hogwash. Judging from the literally scores of strangers who have drooled over my car, more by far than for any other car I've ever owned, I'd bet that the Santa Cruz would be a HUGE success. I'm not enthusiastic about the diesel, though. It's still too much of a hassle to find diesel in suburban areas where this car would be most popular.

  • Theflyersfan Well, if you're on a Samsung phone, (noticing all of the shipping boxes are half Vietnamese), you're using a Vietnam-built phone. Apple? Most of ours in the warehouse say China, but they are trying to spread out to other countries because putting all eggs in the Chinese basket right now is not wise. I'm asking Apple users here (the point of above) - if you're OK using an expensive iPhone, where is your Made in China line in the sand? Can't stress this enough - not being confrontational. I am curious, that's all. Is it because Apple is California-based that manufacturing location doesn't matter, vs a company in a Beijing skyscraper? We have all weekend to hopefully have a civil discussion about how much is too much when it comes to supporting companies being HQ-ed in adversarial countries. I, for one, can't pull the trigger on a Chinese car. All kinds of reasons - political, human rights, war mongering and land grabbing - my morality is ruling my decisions with them.
  • Jbltg Ford AND VAG. What could possibly go wrong?
  • Leonard Ostrander We own a 2017 Buick Envision built in China. It has been very reliable and meets our needs perfectly. Of course Henry Ford was a fervent anti-semite and staunch nazi sympathizer so that rules out Ford products.
  • Ravenuer I would not.
  • V8fairy Absolutely no, for the same reasons I would not have bought a German car in the late 1930's, and I am glad to see a number of other posters here share my moral scruples. Like EBFlex I try to avoid Chinese made goods as much as possible. The quality may also be iffy, but that is not my primary concern