By on January 17, 2017

2015 Hyundai Santa Cruz Concept - Image: Hyundai

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.

2015 Hyundai Santa Cruz Concept - Image: Hyundai

“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 PickupTrucks.com.

“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 GoodCarBadCar.net, 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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37 Comments on “Two Years Later, Hyundai Still Won’t Confirm Santa Cruz Pickup Production...”


  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Basically, a 21st century Subaru BRAT, without the jump seats?

    Well, that one didn’t sell, and I’m not convinced this one would either.

    I think Hyundai’s better off sticking to CUVs. And they desperately need to change their dealer experience, which was a factor in my not buying something from them.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      “Without the jump seats?”

      The jump seats were for tariff reasons. Although in these parts it is not uncommon to see a 1970s-1980s pickup with a bench seat bolted into the bed, against the cab, facing rearward.

      The colloquial (although decidedly un-PC) is “Rez-limo.”

    • 0 avatar
      RobertRyan

      @FreedMike
      Very much doubted this was going to fly. Iniative behind it just left the Company.. Hyundai instead, the Korean Hyundai, said they were interested in doing a ” 1 Tonne” Pickup. Hyundai/ Kia reflect their North Asian heritage in concentrating on cars, vans, light and heavy trucks

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    As for Hyundai’s vice chairman Chung Eui-sun, “He wants that car,” O’Brien says.

    I struggle to believe that given that it hasn’t been approved. My assumption had been that Hyundai USA wanted the Santa Cruz and Hyundai Mothership didn’t want it.

    When the Tuscon or Santa Fe due for another generation? That would be the logical time to engineer the Santa Cruz for one of those platforms.

  • avatar
    Higheriq

    I got tired of waiting on this, and with the rumors that there will be no two door, I bought something else.

  • avatar

    Does anyone remember El Camino and Ranchero?

    Its a wonderful concept car/truck, but as others have mentioned more productive for Hyundai to stick with utilities than any kind of pick up.

    They have a huge meal to digest with Genesis in the next few years.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    This looks more like a Santa *Claus* pickup. You could stuff the bed with toys for girls and boys, but not much else.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    I’ve been waiting for this thing since the concept was revealed. I’ve got a now 20-year-old Ford Ranger that needs replacing.

  • avatar
    Zackman

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

    Sadly, that doesn’t necessarily translate into actual sales. “The internet” seldom follows through on anything, and that goes for seemingly 90% of the B&B, which always preaches “buy used only”.

    In other words, as to buying one of these: “You first”.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      I agree. Small diesels are not the answer. Even Europe is reducing diesel offerings in their passenger vehicles.

      Much less drama with gasoline.

      • 0 avatar
        RobertRyan

        @highdesertcat
        Very few are reducing diesel offerings. Newer diesels are appearing. Eg Jaguar, Bentley

        • 0 avatar
          highdesertcat

          RobertRyan, the ones that are reducing their offerings are doing so because of a variety of reasons. One of them is lower sales and profits.

          It’s true that pressure from globalists is causing SOME automakers to offer newer diesels, but the actual number sold and put into on-road use is a minuscule % of the global SAAR.

          I’m not a fan of tiny diesels. And it would appear that most buyers are not fans either.

          I like BIG diesels, like those in 3/4-ton and up trucks.

          But tiny diesels in passenger cars? Not worth the extra expense and hard-starting in winter.

  • avatar
    mmreeses

    If Hyundai wants to lose less amount of money than what they’ll lose on the Santa Cruz, they need a 3-row large SUV (a bit bigger than the current Santa Fe XL). though it’s obvious the world does not need another large SUV.

    Now where’s my 6 figure consulting fee?

  • avatar
    insalted42

    It sounds like they’re waiting to see how the Ridgeline does before they make any promises.

    They may have been considering taking a risk before Honda announced the Ridgeline, but I bet they’re putting this project on hold until American consumers prove to be more open to a soft-roading family truckster in 2017 than they were first time around.

  • avatar
    Tinn-Can

    Thing is Murano Crosscabriolet levels of stupid…

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    I’m sure Hyundai knows better ways to p!ss away money. How about a sweet roadster? A mid-engine runabout?? With T-tops and turbo 4???

  • avatar
    Upthewazzu

    It won’t happen because it’s a terrible idea and no one will buy it.

  • avatar
    Frylock350

    Its not a question of will people buy this. Its will enough people buy this to justify Hyundai’s investment. I have serious doubts. No doubt there is a market demand for this type of vehicle, but its like the market demand for a BOF RWD station wagon (which includes myself); a vocal group of very few people.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      People asked the same question about the current round of “mid-sized” pickup trucks. And look at where those trucks are today. They’ve helped raise Chevy total truck sales over Ford’s for the first time in years (discounting vans and SUVs–I’m talking just pickup trucks.)

      • 0 avatar
        RobertRyan

        @Vulpine
        Outside of Mexico and Brazil, where they have a niche market, tiny pickups are dead in the rest of the world

      • 0 avatar
        Frylock350

        I don’t think too many people were surprised the Colorado was a hit.

        Also the Colorado is a real BOF truck with available crew cab sold by a manufacturer known for producing tough durable trucks. Its market appeal is MUCH wider than an FWD unibody 2 door coupe utility sold by a manufacturer known for making value-laden cars for a discount versus the competition.

        IIRC most of the mud slung regarding the Colorado revival was about how they’re too big to ever be successful :)

  • avatar
    RHD

    I’m sure the interior is fairly nice, and roomy as well, but the cargo box is too small to compete as a truck, at least in our market.
    The tailgate is too high, and the wheels are too large. Style and form are foremost, and function follows. Hyundai, if you want this to be a success, it needs to be redesigned.
    I’m all in favor of it, actually, but it’s not a very good truck, not a very good SUV, probably not price-competitive or particularly good on fuel, either. It will have to have something special to convince buyers to pull the trigger… maybe 0% financing with a hefty rebate check.

  • avatar
    Big Al From 'Murica

    I am shocked. I mean they had like 7 sales to commenters here alone. There were probably at least 3 more sales out there. They would have sold 10’s of these.

    • 0 avatar
      OldManPants

      I’d expect a good 10 sales over the first few Spring weekends alone.

      But I can’t diss any truck, not even those little electric ones for kids. And the Santa Cruz is nearly as capable as those.

  • avatar
    Longshift

    The Santa Cruz concept, and especially the bed, is too small. The bed would need to be at least two feet longer to be useful. A better solution would be for Hyundai to reintroduce the Borrego mid-size SUV to the U.S. and build a mid-size pickup off it. Someone photoshopped a Borrego pickup, and it looks good: http://www.carspyshots.net/showthread.php?t=19647

    I understand the Kia Telluride is being considered as a successor to the Borrego. If Hyundai does end up producing the Telluride in the U.S., it could serve as a basis for a mid-size truck. Hyundai has in fact indicated that they may produce a true mid-sized truck after 2020: http://www.caradvice.com.au/461363/hyundai-ute-plan-finally-making-progress/

    Barring that, Hyundai would be better off to produce a pickup off the Santa Fe Sport/Sorento than the Tuscon.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      Too small for you, Longshift, but not to me; I simply don’t need a 20′ long, 7′ wide 7′ tall slab of aluminum or steel to carry at most 700# of gear or tow 2000# behind. BUT, I also don’t want to carry certain cargo–especially aromatic cargo–in the interior of an SUV when an open-bed model would be more convenient.

      And you forget (or maybe didn’t know) that the bed could extend to 6′ with a slide-out between the tailgate halves. Go look at the Fiat Toro images and video review from Brazil. The thing is much more usable than you want to believe.

      By the way, the images in the link YOU provided are of the Santa Cruz concept.

    • 0 avatar
      OldManPants

      VoGo? You out there?

      You see what I’m trying to tell you vis your Teslism?

  • avatar
    Clueless Economist

    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.

  • avatar
    jsk

    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.

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