By on October 29, 2018

2015 Hyundai Santa Cruz Crossover Truck Concept - Image: Hyundai

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 santa cruz concept

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.

[Images: Hyundai]

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28 Comments on “Hyundai Pickup Still Not Greenlit; Two Years From Production If It Is...”


  • avatar
    RHD

    “Dude, can you help me move next weekend with your truck?”

    “…my truck is a Hyundai.”

    “Oh, yeah, right… never mind, I’ll just rent a U-Haul.”

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    Exactly half the reason they were gonna build it was for some cat that goes by “Vulpine” that blows up the entire internet universe related to pickups, promising to give it a good consideration and he just bought a new Colorado, special ordered.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    They waited much, MUCH too long to do this. By they time they hit the market with it, the demand will be taken by the Ford Courier pickup.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      Yeah, Hyundai must have gone to the Ford school of new product introduction. I tried to stick it out too, but ended up getting a Ranger… Oh, wait, maybe it was a Bronco

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      It was always going to be based on the new platform underpinning the next Tucson, so wasn’y going to make it here earlier.

      On top of that is the question of where to place production?

      If production is to located in the US, that would mean having to expand Hyundai’s Alabama plant.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    Just a note on that “defunct Subaru Baja”: Neither that nor the Ford Explorer SportTrak would be defunct today had not the crew cab pickup truck taken off like a rocket to overwhelm all similar vehicles. I believe even the Avalanche would still be around as it was a good concept for being a full-sized SUV.

    • 0 avatar
      jack4x

      I’m honestly surprised the Avalanche is gone and has not returned. Other than looks (subjective) there was really no downside when compared to a crew cab short box truck. The upsides of the better ride from the SUV chassis and the flexibility to have a long bed in a shorter truck when needed were compelling to me, I guess others didn’t agree.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        I’ve heard anecdotally that the Avalanche (at least 1st gen) had build quality issues. (water intrusion etc)

        • 0 avatar
          jack4x

          My experience living with a 1st gen was that the issues were predictably similar to about any other turn of the century GM product. Cheap interior pieces etc. Had water come in through the sunroof once in a wicked storm but I rarely opened the sunroof after that and it never happened again. It was built in Mexico rather than with the SUVs in Arlington, but I would think a high margin product like that could be brought back to the US if they had motivation to sell it again.

          • 0 avatar
            PrincipalDan

            “…but I would think a high margin product like that could be brought back to the US if they had motivation to sell it again.”

            Or the 1/2 ton trucks? You know the new generation of which GM bragged about being able to squeeze higher profits out of.

            Oh wait…

      • 0 avatar
        Dan

        There was no downside but there was no real upside either, all the trucks ride fine and homeowner chores don’t need a long bed. The Avalanche was a couple of years ahead of the rest of the wave of family trucks but that window closed hard. Sales dropped by 33% between 2003 and 2005 and it was only downhill from there.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      The Baja’s bed was about the same size as this Hyundai, and it had 4 real doors and a real back seat. If you’re going to call it ridiculous, what does that make the Hyundai? I guess the sliding bed might help, but color me skeptical. As far as appealing to the young-and-sporty crowd, haven’t we learned that they don’t actually have any money?

      Don’t get me wrong, I kind of like the thing (I strongly considered buying a Baja back in the day), but I’d do a lot of market research before pulling the trigger if I were Hyundai.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    Hyundai would be far better off producing a global midsizer.

    Hyundai/Kia are overly risk averse, even with SUVs and CUVs. The company needs to start making decisions.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      Well, Hyundai has an A-segment CUV on the way, in addition to the 8 passenger Palisade and supposedly a BEV CUV as well.

      So will basically have gone from having 2.5 CUVs to 7 CUVs (including the Nexo) within a pretty short time-frame (not counting CUVs for other markets like the Creta/ix25).

      There are increasing signs that H/K will go ahead w/ the development of a new BoF platform to underpin pick-ups and more off-road suitable SUVs.

  • avatar
    TwoBelugas

    “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.”

    Is Steph a US based writer? In any case, is he aware of this little thing called NAFTA and perhaps USMCA? How does he think Toyota, GM, and FCA get away with building Tacomas, Silverados/Sierras, and Rams in Mexico to sell in the US? And that Kia has a plant in Mexico already?

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      Not to mention, Ford pays the tax on the Transit Connect, a model it continues to import after the loophole they used at first was closed. With their trimming of unprofitable models lately, the little van wasn’t cut. In fact, it gets a refresh with a new diesel engine for 2019.

      If Ford can make a business case for continuing that product while paying the tax, the argument that it’s an iron wall that cannot be crossed for pickups goes out the window.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      NAFTA is no more and allocating production to Mexico (when the US would be the largest market) has risks as the current administration is erratic when it comes to trade relations.

  • avatar
    Babe RuthLess

    Looks like Hyundai’s version of FCA’s Fiat Toro.

  • avatar
    stingray65

    Hyundai product planning meeting 2014-15:

    New Guy: I have an idea!!! Why don’t we build a pickup – Americans are buying millions of them at luxury car prices from a variety of mainstream brands.

    Boss: Nah, I have decided to spend a few billion creating a new luxury car brand with a separate dealer network – we can get all 15 of those S-Class and 7 Series buyers who are price conscious.

  • avatar
    agroal

    What a fantastic vehicle for all of the teenage girls driving Wranglers with leather seats, heated steering wheels, start-stop tech along with pastel colors who say: “I want a pickup truck.”

  • avatar
    nels0300

    I’d love something like this.

    Hauling my bikes around in my Elantra is a pain, remove front wheel, fold seats down, and wriggle the bike into the trunk without scratching anything. If it’s my mountain bike, it’s often muddy or sandy.

    Don’t want a bike rack, roof mounted or hitch.

    Don’t want a “real” truck, too big and cumbersome . Don’t want a Ridgeline either.

  • avatar
    Clueless Economist

    For that reason, I am out. I plan on buying a Ford Ranger in the first half of next year.

  • avatar
    Oberkanone

    Wonderful Subaru Baja.

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