Hyundai Says Santa Cruz Pickup Still Coming, but You'll Need to Be Patient

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

Remember that Santa Cruz Concept pickup that miraculously appeared at the 2015 North American International Auto Show? Well, according to Hyundai, it’s still earmarked for future production, but the brand has really dragged its feet on its development.

Despite a warm welcome from the automotive media, the Santa Cruz hit a major speed bump when former CEO Dave Zuchowski left Hyundai Motor America. At the time, Zuchowski was pushing hard for more SUVs and especially the pickup truck, but sliding domestic deliveries forced home office to oust him from his position. Tragically, Hyundai’s preponderance of cars is probably the largest factor contributing to lackluster U.S. sales — something Dave seemed to understand.

Hyundai continued its pursuit of SUVs and crossovers without him, but the pickup was lost in the mix. Originally planned for a 2018 release, development of the Santa Cruz stagnated. Now, the automaker says it intends to get things back on track.

“We love it,” Brian Smith, chief operating officer of Hyundai Motor America, told Motor Trend in a recent interview. “We talk about it a lot.”

It seems the management shakeup set back development quite a bit. Smith said the pickup probably won’t arrive until 2020 now. That’s a bummer for Hyundai, as rival automakers have begun dabbling in the modestly sized truck market. Mercedes-Benz has the X-Class, Ford brought back the Ranger, and Volkswagen is teasing the idea of an Atlas-based pickup.

Meanwhile, General Motors and most Japanese automakers already have a slice of the pie. Even Mitsubishi has said it might be a good idea to get a mid-sized truck back into North America, while BMW’s Australian arm is practically begging for a ute. Hyundai could have been an upstart, but now it looks like it’ll be another brand tagging along in a segment that’s regaining relevance.

When the Santa Cruz does come, Smith said it will have four-doors, five seats, and be based on the Tucson. It also won’t look like the concept vehicle from 2015. But it will be real, and that’s the important thing.

[Images: Hyundai]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

More by Matt Posky

Join the conversation
10 of 51 comments
  • Dwford Dwford on Apr 20, 2018

    It's so infuriating when automakers hedge on an amazing concept due to internal politics etc. GM botched the Fiero because at the time they needed it pitched as some commuter car instead of a cheap mid engine sports car it was meant to be. More recently, Toyota botched the CH-R by hobbling it with front wheel drive, no upgrade engine, and a crappy interior. Now Hyundai is doing the same with the Santa Cruz. Of course, Subaru has being doing that to us for years with amazing Impreza/WRX concepts that get totally ruined in production form. Hint to automakers: if you have an amazing idea (an ACTUAL amazing idea) PUT IT INTO PRODUCTION!! Don't chicken out and let the weasels in the accounting office or marketing department ruin it.

    • See 6 previous
    • Big Al from Oz Big Al from Oz on Apr 23, 2018

      @Big Al from Oz Art, I don't know about the Santa Fe exports. But I do know the US gets the previous model. So, wherever the US exports gets an older vehicle. We get the US made Highlander renamed Kluger for the past several years. But Toyota has the Fortuna (Hilux version of a Surf) which is around the same price, size, BOF, hi-lo tx case, diesel, etc. These are made in Thailand and represent far better value and real off road ability.

  • RHD RHD on Apr 20, 2018

    The vehicle doesn't sell the vehicle, the financing sells the vehicle. (In most cases - the B&B are a different group of cats.) Put this thing in the showroom with a few mini spotlights and a 199/month lease or an 84-month loan and the suckers will drive it home. "At Hyundai, your job is your credit!" Waiting around for well-informed buyers with good credit will make for a lot of laid-off salespeople. So I'm feeling a little cynical today - but that's the truth. If the salesman can shoehorn that butt into that seat, the unit gets moved. That's why so many Scions went to grandparents, and single mothers are driving new Chargers. Waiting for a truly matched pair just ain't reality. So as long as Hyundai puts this sparkly little warmed-over Subaru Baja under the shiny lights to attract the bugs, they will sell them, whether it's actually useful or not.

    • Vulpine Vulpine on Apr 22, 2018

      It's too bad you don't understand the REAL reason so many grandparents moved into Scions (and similarly-sized vehicles.) Sure, the cheap price is obviously one factor but the simple fact is that not every elderly individual needs or wants a giant car; they just want something easy to get around in that doesn't cost an arm and a leg in fuel. Remember, those retired people don't have the advantage of working overtime to supplement their (minimal) base pay.

  • ShitHead It kicked on one time for me when a car abruptly turned into my lane. Worked as advertised. I was already about to lean into the brake as I was into the horn.
  • Theflyersfan I look at that front and I have to believe that BMW and Genesis designers look at that and go "wow...that's a little much." Rest of the car looks really good - they nailed the evolution of the previous design quite well. They didn't have to reinvent the wheel - when people want a Mustang, I don't think they are going to cross-shop because they know what they want.
  • Theflyersfan Winters go on around Halloween and Summers go on in late March or early April. However, there were some very cold mornings right after the summers went on that had me skidding a bit due to no grip! I do enough (ahem) spirited driving on empty hilly/mountain roads to justify a set of sticky rubber, and winters are a must as while there isn't much snow where I am (three dustings of snow this entire winter), I head to areas that get a bit more snow and winter tires turns that light, RWD car into a snow beast!
  • SCE to AUX My B5.5 was terrible, but maybe the bugs have been worked out of this one.
  • Zerofoo 5-valve 1.8T - and OK engine if you aren't in a hurry. These turbocharged engines had lots of lag - and the automatic transmission didn't help.Count on putting a timing belt on this immediately. The timing belt service interval, officially, was 100,000 miles and many didn't make it to that.