By on April 20, 2018

Hyundai santa cruz concept

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. 

2015 Hyundai Santa Cruz Concept

“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.

2015 Hyundai Santa Cruz Crossover Truck Concept - Image: Hyundai

[Images: Hyundai]

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51 Comments on “Hyundai Says Santa Cruz Pickup Still Coming, but You’ll Need to Be Patient...”


  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    If a business needs to mull this long over the introduction of a vehicle, then don’t do it.

    Again ……………….. if the Chicken Tax wasn’t there I believe Hyundai would already have this in production and the US would have some along with many other markets. This would reduce the risk to business, but free economies work like this, reduce business risk.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      @Big Al: Again ……………….. if the Chicken Tax wasn’t there

      Isn’t the chicken tax eliminated under KORUS?

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        BAF0 is close to starting his own site:

        The Truth About Chickens

        • 0 avatar
          JohnTaurus

          Nahh, it would be:

          The B.S. About Chicken Tax

          (Ford pays the chicken tax on the Transit Connect, ergo so could Hyundai or any one else.)

          • 0 avatar
            bd2

            Only after the govt. closed the loophole in 2013 and plus, it’s a different market – retail vs. business (also, sales of the Transit Connect have been in a decline as cheaper competition have entered the fold).

            The market for a coupe ute is already a niche market and the added 25% price increase would either turn off prospective buyers entirely, choose a competitor not hit by the tariff or simply move up to a regular pick-up.

            Hyundai will have to build it here in the US (or possibly Kia’s plant in Mexico, which is risky until the whole NAFTA re-do is settled) which means expanding their ‘Bama plant or ship them in kits and re-assemble them here.

            Shame about the delay and shame that it won’t look like the concept.

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al from Oz

        https://qz.com/1239519/trumps-south-korea-trade-deal-preserves-the-55-year-old-chicken-tax-us-automakers-love/

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        In a word, MCS, No, it isn’t.

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al from Oz

        mcs,
        The market for this vehicle in Korea is marginal as well, so making it in Korea or the US has no real advantage.

        As the link I presented to you shows, the chicken tax remains.

        So, I do believe the US is NOT serious about fair trade.

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      Disagree in this case. If there was a robust global market for this they would already be building it (elsewhere) and people like you would be telling us how superior this is to our F150 and Silverado.

      In this trucks case it is not the chicken keeping it down.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        The chicken was part of it but it seems internal politics was a big part too. It looked like it was getting a lot of push from one side (I think the Asian, with the US side pushing hard against.) After the US CEO got fired (or quit) the idea had to be reconsidered and the outcry for a truly smaller truck got it back into the limelight.

  • avatar
    ClutchCarGo

    “When the Santa Cruz does come, Smith said it will have four-doors, five seats, and be based on the Tucson.”

    So in addition to being a day late they will be a dollar short. No one is going to get excited by a mini-Ridgeline.

  • avatar
    TwoBelugas

    no one in the intended buyer demographic gives an F. Since the Ridgeline can’t get a better foothold with the car based crossover with the back roof hacked off, I doubt Hyundai’s sub-prime credit score buyers would be able to buy more than a few a year anyway.

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      So, have you ever actually investigated sales figures or consumer demographics?

      From Bloomberg: Jul 12, 2017 – “In the past 12 months, Honda has sold almost 40,000 Ridgelines in the U.S., accounting for one out of 10 vehicles in the midsize pickup segment.” And try getting a discount or consumer incentive on a Ridgeline.

      • 0 avatar
        TwoBelugas

        “So, have you ever actually investigated sales figures or consumer demographics?”

        LOL have you?

        http://www.goodcarbadcar.net/2011/01/honda-ridgeline-sales-figures/

        US sales:

        2005 42,593

        2006 50,193

        2017 34,749

        LOL, great success!

        • 0 avatar
          TwoBelugas

          “So, have you ever actually investigated sales figures or consumer demographics?”

          Oh yeah, lets take a closer look at the runaway sales hit known as the Ridgeline over Q1 2018:

          2017 2018

          Jan 2681 2106
          Feb 3265 2209
          March 3778 2690

          Boy, people just can’t stop buying these things! At this rate they may even clear 30k in 2018 if they have a stellar Q2-Q4.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    I’ve been waiting for four years already! I’m buying within the next two years (maybe even less.) If the Santa Cruz isn’t available, I’ll be taking whatever is.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    @Vulpine–It could be available in a couple of years. It sounds like your Ranger is a good truck and the miles are low which can buy you plenty of time. I will have to see the final truck but I myself might be interested in this truck if it is not too big and not too expensive. I would prefer an extended cab so that might rule this truck out–I don’t need 4 doors and I don’t need a lot of extras. I really think Hyundai should offer a base extended cab.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      As a daily driver for me, Jeff, my little Ranger is good but not great; it lacks the space behind the seats to carry anything more than an umbrella and my load management bar and I can’t take the wife shopping unless its to a garden center or hardware store for lumber or other large, clumsy or aromatic load. But now that we’re also talking about getting a smaller RV (no more than 5000# loaded) I’m forced to consider something slightly larger just to get the towing capacity. I want the Santa Cruz but they simply took too long to get it out. I’ll probably be driving a new Ranger instead, with an extended cab, not crew.

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        Congrats on picking a new Ranger. Now you can move on with your life, ending your never ending crusade for a US compact pickup finally.

        Now Hyundai can move on, too.

        Hyundai has to be looking at the Subaru Baja failure, building a mere 30K total units for their 6 year run, by the time dealers could unloaded the last ones (new old stock).

        I mean what’s Hyundai got that Subaru don’t? Except subprime buyers.

        • 0 avatar
          Vulpine

          My boy, I haven’t picked it yet. It’s just the best of what’s available, ASSUMING my wife and I choose to pull a camping trailer. That isn’t decided yet. The Hyundai is still in the running, depending on factors I’ve mentioned multiple times before. How it’s equipped and designed is as important as its smaller size. The Colorado is the best looking of the currently available trucks but with what they’ve done to the floor of the extension on the cab, it’s useless for me. If Hyundai does something similar… well, guess what?

      • 0 avatar
        Art Vandelay

        I seriously doubt the Santa Cruz is going to pull 5000 pounds. I think that is where the Gen 1 Ridgeline tapped out at.

        5000 pounds isn’t a small RV BTW. My 30 foot Gulfstream is like 5200 pounds and if I have to pull it on the interstate I find myself wishing I had gone for the 3.5 sometimes in my F150 and that is with it dry.

        An RV is like dragging a parachute behind you too. And short wheelbase as on a regular cab hurts when pulling. I towed a 21 footer with my FZJ80 Land Cruiser and the experience can best be described as miserable. If you are going beyond a pop up or maybe a really small ultralight or airstream a half ton is really a better tool. Maybe the Ranger but the Santa Cruz will likely be ill equipped.

        • 0 avatar
          Vulpine

          “I seriously doubt the Santa Cruz is going to pull 5000 pounds. I think that is where the Gen 1 Ridgeline tapped out at.”
          —- Agreed. But then, I don’t know that I’ll be towing that much. The wife wants a little tent on wheels such as the Sylvan camper. That only weighs a few hundred pounds and even our Renegade can pull that.

          “5000 pounds isn’t a small RV BTW. My 30 foot Gulfstream is like 5200 pounds and if I have to pull it on the interstate I find myself wishing I had gone for the 3.5 sometimes in my F150 and that is with it dry.”
          — Smaller than you think, depending on the type. A twelve-foot pop-up camper can easily weigh 5000#, especially if it’s one of the higher-end models. You’re still bucking the drag of a non-aerodynamic load behind the open bed (I’m guessing) of your F-150. A low, bed-height popup probably wouldn’t load you down nearly as much.

          There are RVs and there are RVs. If you have a conventional RV travel trailer, they you’re right; even with the curve over the top, it’s an effective parachute, especially behind an open-bed truck. Not so bad (but still not good) behind an SUV or truck with a roof-height bed cap. Honestly, your truck’s own shape is part of your problem, I’m sure. In my own case, I’ve been looking more at the so-called ‘teardrop’ campers (an amazing variety available) and assorted popups such as A-frames, conventional and ultralights, including the Sylvan mentioned above. (sylvansport dot com) Note: I am not advertising this, I am strictly using this as an example of the type my wife and I are considering. This type weighs in at just over 800#. I’m quite sure even the Santa Cruz could handle that.

          • 0 avatar
            Art Vandelay

            Yeah my first pop up was massive and was I think 3500 pounds and yes it pulled much easier due to the lower profile. I just pulled a MKIII Supra from Augusta to Huntsville on one of those heavy U-Haul 4 wheel auto trailers and I got like 18 MPG and didnt even know it was back there most of the time so yeah, the shape is certainly a big deal. I like the teardrops and after my kids are grown my wife and I will probably do something like that.

          • 0 avatar
            Art Vandelay

            Yeah my first pop up was massive and was I think 3500 pounds and yes it pulled much easier due to the lower profile. I just pulled a MKIII Supra from Augusta to Huntsville on one of those heavy U-Haul 4 wheel auto trailers and I got like 18 MPG and didnt even know it was back there most of the time so yeah, the shape is certainly a big deal. I like the teardrops and after my kids are grown my wife and I will probably do something like that.

    • 0 avatar
      JD-Shifty

      maybe you can remove the rear seats

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Sounds like you might have made your mind up. The new Ranger might be all you need.

    • 0 avatar
      dwford

      NOBODY needs a midsize pickup. Why would anyone want a payload hobbled, seat on the floor, no rear legroom pickup when, FOR THE SAME PRICE, they could get a real full-size pickup?

      • 0 avatar
        mcs

        @dwford: “NOBODY needs a midsize pickup.”

        They’re nice to have when you are dealing with really narrow roads. Lots of full-size pickups with taped up mirrors in my area from passing other full-size pickups. I know even narrower back roads in rural areas of Vermont. Not every place in the US has nice wide boulevards to cruise on.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        Why? Because they don’t want the ridiculous size, the abysmal fuel economy or the insane price. My first truck was a 1983 Mitsubishi Sport. It was a perfect size for me and the only thing lacking at the time (which happened to come out the next year) was an extended cab, short bed version.

        Why would anybody buy a Road Whale™ when all they need is an open bed compact CUV for a hell of a lot lower price?

      • 0 avatar
        brn

        dwford, I agree on price. I’d like a misized pickup for two reasons.
        1. I don’t need a full size.
        2. I don’t want to pay for a full size.

        Unfortunately, #2 doesn’t work out the way I’d like. As a result, I’m not buying a mid-sized pickup.

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al from Oz

        dwford,
        NOBODY needs a midsize pickup?? WTF?

        What a ridiculous statement to make.

        If no one needs a midsize size pickup, then where does that put the full size pickups? Most full size pickup haul air and tow less.

      • 0 avatar
        bd2

        It’s basically a passenger car (seats 5) with a bed (supposedly an extendable bed).

        It’s for city-dwellers/suburbanites who just need a bed every now and then to pick up some stuff from the home improvement store or to carry a dirt bike or a jet ski on the weekends.

        • 0 avatar
          Vulpine

          And that’s exactly why these things would be popular. Smaller, lighter, still a convenient economy-oriented vehicle with the ability to carry things a fully-enclosed model can’t.

          Not everybody who wants an open bed want a Road Whale™.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      It’ll probably be more than I need or want, but if it’s the best choice available, then that’s what I get when I do buy.

  • avatar
    dwford

    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.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al from Oz

      dwford,
      ……………………….. then reality strikes home!

      So, how many of these Santa Cruz pickups does Hyundai need to produce to break even?

      To set up a plant to produce these will cost how many billions for just one market. That’s the reality. The other reality is the US is not a competitive manufacturer of vehicles. If it was Hyundai would make them in the US to export as well.

      That’s why it would be better to allow imports first to test the market and see if it’s a viable product. You then hedge this by having global markets buy them, offsetting the risk.

      • 0 avatar
        Art Vandelay

        “The other reality is the US is not a competitive manufacturer of vehicles.”

        Interesting, because Toyota, BMW, Mercedes, and I believe Honda all export US built models. Toyota is building a plant in Huntsville, Alabama that will export a significant chunk of the vehicles (Corolla IIRC) produced there.

        I believe Hyundai also exports models built at the Georgia plant.

        • 0 avatar
          Art Vandelay

          Also if they are enlarging it, as they seem to be they could produce it on the Santa Federal platform which is already US Built.

          • 0 avatar
            bd2

            Seems like it will be built on the next gen Tucson platform – which will also underpin the next gen Elantra (which is built at Hyundai’s ‘Bama plant).

            Still, that likely requires expansion of that plant (wouldn’t be surprised if Hyundai expands its facility to build both the next gen Tucson and Santa Cruz).

        • 0 avatar
          Big Al from Oz

          Art,
          Look at the vehicles and in particular their size. The US isn’t competitive at producing smaller vehicles like this Santa Cruz for export.

          No one really builds large vehicles, if they did the US would be importing more large vehicles. By default through protection and unfair trading is why the US has large vehicle production.

          • 0 avatar
            Art Vandelay

            Doesn’t Hyundai export US built Santa Fe’s? That isn;t much larger.

          • 0 avatar
            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.

  • avatar
    RHD

    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.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      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.

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