Hyundai Pickup Still Not Greenlit; Two Years From Production If It Is
The timeline of Hyundai’s long-anticipated pickup calls to mind Lt. Frank Drebin’s description of lovemaking: “It’s a painstaking and arduous task that seems to go on and on forever, and just when you think things are going your way, nothing happens.”
While a production version of Hyundai’s 2015 Santa Cruz concept once seemed like a sure thing, the would-be model still doesn’t have the backing of Hyundai brass, meaning it won’t trundle down an assembly line for at least two years. If it does receive the green light, however, Hyundai’s sticking with its plan to create its own niche in an increasingly crowded small pickup market.
Speaking to Automotive News at the automaker’s global HQ, Hyundai Motor Company CEO Wonhee Lee said there’s still uncertainly over whether the Santa Cruz, or whatever Hyundai plans to all it, would be the right product for America. The “semi-pickup,” as Lee calls it, is still in the basic R&D phase. It could reach production in 32 months if approved tomorrow, he added.
The vehicle Lee describes sounds similar to the concept, whose passenger car underpinnings necessitated an abbreviated bed length and clamshell doors. Many viewers looked at it as a sure-fire hit with the young-n-sporty crowd. Expected to borrow the Tucson’s platform, the pickup would feature four seats and a sliding bed to improve cargo capacity, Lee said.
Hyundai’s vision is to not to create a competitor to established, body-on-frame midsizers like the Chevrolet Colorado, Toyota Tacoma, and upcoming Ford Ranger, but to provide a smaller, cheaper alternative that still packs some utility. A bridge between the defunct and ridiculous Subaru Baja and a true midsize pickup, if you will. It’s a promising idea, as smaller pickups are having a good sales year.
Still, given that the vehicle would be something altogether new, it’s no wonder Hyundai’s sitting on the fence.
“It’s a new segment, so we don’t have any data to give us a kind of confidence,” Lee said. “But we believe we can create a new segment for pickup trucks in the U.S. market.”
Of course, it would be an easier decision if Hyundai could just export it from a country of its choosing, but the dreaded chicken tax forbids it. Any Santa Cruz-inspired truck would have to built in the U.S. to avoid the longstanding import tariff on pickups, meaning pricey retooling at the company’s Montgomery, Alabama assembly plant.
Lee said his company is considering investments that would allow the production of two additional models at the Montgomery plant.
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For that reason, I am out. I plan on buying a Ford Ranger in the first half of next year.
Wonderful Subaru Baja.