Hyundai Hopes to Solve U.S. Sales Woes With Slick Little Pickup

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
hyundai hopes to solve u s sales woes with slick little pickup

Hyundai intends to launch a small pickup truck in the United States as part of its plan to catch up with the industry’s shift away from sedans. Up until now, that strategy has involved cramming as many SUVs onto the market as possible. But Hyundai brand sales are still dragging behind 2016’s monthly averages in the U.S., with end-of-year estimates falling short of company goals.

The solution is to keep pushing the Tucson, start deliveries on the Kona mini SUV before 2018, and begin development of a pickup truck based on the Santa Cruz concept from 2015 (seen above). Hyundai is also rumored to be planning on adding three additional sport utility vehicles or crossovers to its North American lineup by 2020 — helping it shore up waning sedan and hatchback sales.

As small trucks don’t arrive in the U.S. market with any regularity, this is rather exciting news. Assumedly, the Hyundai pickup will be assembled in the United States to avoid the dreaded chicken tax. Otherwise, the Korean automaker might as well spend its money funding a space program to shoot its remaining capital into the sun. Its massive SUV pant in Alabama seems like the best choice — however, that facility is already operating at capacity, leaving little room for another vehicle.

Regardless, Michael J. O’Brien, vice president of Hyundai’s corporate and product planning, told Reuters that the automaker is a go for development on a pickup truck similar to the Santa Cruz. Like the concept vehicle, the production version will probably attempt to bridge the gap between car and truck as a North American ute. The odds of it using the Santa Cruz’s 2.0-liter diesel (making 190 horsepower and 300 lb-ft of torque) are doubtful, however. We expect to see a turbocharged gasoline engine and a hybridized variant instead.

The pickup’s size is also up for questioning. While having it based off the show car would make it significantly smaller than most of North America’s offerings, building it too small could be a sales curse. Likewise, going too large would place it up against industry veterans like the Ford F-150. Realistically, it’ll probably find itself in direct competition with Honda’s Ridgeline — which has carved out a niche for itself without becoming an overt sales magnet — whether it’s a little bigger or smaller than its unibody rival.

Hyundai is green-lighting the pickup into development mainly because of the overwhelmingly positive feedback received from the Santa Cruz. Uniqueness had a helping hand in that, so going too mainstream likely isn’t in the cards. But this is a small truck best suited for hauling furniture and weekend excursions, not the mammoth junk-haulers Americans buy in droves. While we like the idea of a spiritual successor to the Subaru BRAT, the rest of the sales region may not. Can it really help influence Hyundai’s sales figures?

“Our glasses are fairly clean,” O’Brien said. “We understand where we have a shortfall.”

The brand’s 2017 U.S. sales are down nearly 11 percent through the end of July, with the Sonata losing 30 percent during those first seven months. But Hyundai’s current SUV lineup is up 11 percent during the same timeframe and dealers have noticed. They’ve been begging the automaker to provide them with as many SUVs and trucks as the company can muster.

“We are optimistic about the future,” Scott Fink, chief executive of Hyundai of New Port Richey, Florida, said. “But we are disappointed that we don’t have the products today.”

[Images: Hyundai]

Join the conversation
5 of 71 comments
  • Oldowl Oldowl on Aug 23, 2017

    I thought a Honda Ridgeline would do until I looked at one. Nice, but too big. I may be too used to wait for a Hyundai or other small pickup. Maybe find a 2003 or so Tacoma, like the one I once had, and rebuild what needs rebuilding.

  • Bikegoesbaa Bikegoesbaa on Aug 23, 2017

    I an excited about this vehicle because I look forward to watching all the "Need moar small trucks, I'll be first in line to buy one" people I know tie themselves in knots coming up with nit-picking reasons not to actually buy one.

    • See 2 previous
    • DenverMike DenverMike on Aug 23, 2017

      @Thomas Kreutzer Yes! Build your own "mini-truck", just the way you want it, with a sprinkling of modern tech, best of old and new. Some call them "resto-mods" Many are fed up with "modern" fullsize pickups, especially diesels, and building up "older pickups" to their specific tastes, needs and specs, say around MY2000 vintage, but starting with a clean, hard loaded, rust-free, low mileage examples. There's plenty of those at reasonable prices in the southern, western states, and a there's at least couple companies offering restored/rebuilt/bulletproofed heavy duty pickups and duallys, mostly 4X4 crew cabs, "turn-key".

  • Jeanbaptiste Any variant of “pizza” flavored combos. I only eat these on car trips and they are just my special gut wrenching treat.
  • Nrd515 Usually for me it's been Arby's for pretty much forever, except when the one near my house dosed me with food poisoning twice in about a year. Both times were horrible, but the second time was just so terrible it's up near the top of my medical horror stories, and I have a few of those. Obviously, I never went to that one again. I'm still pissed at Arby's for dropping Potato Cakes, and Culver's is truly better anyway. It will be Arby's fish for my "cheat day", when I eat what I want. No tartar sauce and no lettuce on mine, please. And if I get a fish and a French Dip & Swiss? Keep the Swiss, and the dip, too salty. Just the meat and the bread for me, thanks. The odds are about 25% that they will screw one or both of them up and I will have to drive through again to get replacement sandwiches. Culver's seems to get my order right many times in a row, but if I hurry and don't check my order, that's when it's screwed up and garbage to me. My best friend lives on Starbucks coffee. I don't understand coffee's appeal at all. Both my sister and I hate anything it's in. It's like green peppers, they ruin everything they touch. About the only things I hate more than coffee are most condiments, ranked from most hated to..who cares..[list=1][*]Tartar sauce. Just thinking about it makes me smell it in my head. A nod to Ranch here too. Disgusting. [/*][*]Mayo. JEEEEZUS! WTF?[/*][*]Ketchup. Sweet puke tasting sludge. On my fries? Salt. [/*][*]Mustard. Yikes. Brown, yellow, whatever, it's just awful.[/*][*]Pickles. Just ruin it from the pickle juice. No. [/*][*]Horsey, Secret, whatever sauce. Gross. [/*][*]American Cheese. American Sleeze. Any cheese, I don't want it.[/*][*]Shredded lettuce. I don't hate it, but it's warm and what's the point?[/*][*]Raw onion. Totally OK, but not something I really want. Grilled onions is a whole nother thing, I WANT those on a burger.[/*][*]Any of that "juice" that Subway and other sandwich places want to put on. NO, HELL NO! Actually, move this up to #5. [/*][/list=1]
  • SPPPP It seems like a really nice car that's just still trying to find its customer.
  • MRF 95 T-Bird I owned an 87 Thunderbird aka the second generation aero bird. It was a fine driving comfortable and very reliable car. Quite underrated compared to the GM G-body mid sized coupes since unlike them they had rack and pinion steering and struts on all four wheels plus fuel injection which GM was a bit late to the game on their mid and full sized cars. When I sold it I considered a Mark VII LSC which like many had its trouble prone air suspension deleted and replaced with coils and struts. Instead I went for a MN-12 Thunderbird.
  • SCE to AUX Somebody got the bill of material mixed up and never caught it.Maybe the stud was for a different version (like the 4xe) which might use a different fuel tank.