Hyundai's Santa Cruz Compact Pickup Heading Closer to Production

Chad Kirchner
by Chad Kirchner
hyundais santa cruz compact pickup heading closer to production

It seemed like it’s been ages since Hyundai showed off the Santa Cruz concept at the 2015 North American International Auto Show. Since then, people have been begging for the company to build it. While firm details of when it’ll go into production aren’t available, the company has been vocal about wanting to build it and the challenges that it would face.

Speaking to Automotive News, Mike O’Brien talked about the Santa Cruz. As he’s the vice president of product planning in North America, so he should be in the know. “It’ll be a very versatile vehicle that has the promise of creating a whole new class of buyers,” he told them. Compact pickup trucks appear to be a mostly untapped market in the U.S., and would be a segment that Hyundai could enter and not face the usual truck hurdles.

He also told Automotive News that the Santa Cruz would have to be built in North America. Part of the reason, of course, is to avoid the 25 percent tax on imported light trucks. The “Chicken Tax” has prevented many foreign automakers to sell small trucks here in the States. Additionally, even building it in Mexico in today’s political climate might catch the ire of the president and potential buyers.

Montgomery, Alabama’s Hyundai plant has production capacity of about 400,000 vehicles a year, and could potentially be the plant tasked to handle the compact truck.

Breaking into the pickup truck segment is difficult, however. Nissan has had immense difficulties gaining ground in the full-size truck segment with their Titan and Honda’s Ridgeline doesn’t turn in amazing sales numbers in the midsize segment. Selling new trucks in the United States is hard. The domestic manufacturers invest a Brobdingnagian amount of money and resources into the battle.

However, midsize trucks keep growing in size. That opens up the opportunity for a truck smaller than the new Ranger, Gladiator and Colorado. Hyundai is going to play in that space if it plays at all. The prevailing theory is Ford is also going to enter the space with a new Courier compact truck. For city dwellers who need some extra versatility, the compact truck could be a game changer. But who will get there first?

[Images: Hyundai]

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  • Jeff S Jeff S on Jul 11, 2019

    @Vulpine--I keep my vehicles a long time so I am going to research any vehicle I buy. I still have my 99 S-10 for over 20 years and just as you have stated I cannot find a current truck that is like it. My 08 Isuzu is a good truck but it is higher than I would like and the bed is shorter since it is a crew cab. My problem with this concept Hyundai Santa Cruz is that the bed is shorter than I need and that is why I said I would not judge it now because it is a concept and the final vehicle that might be produced could be different. Maybe if the back opened like an Avalanche then it would have the extra length that I would need. I don't have a use for a rear seat so a seat delete would be a good choice for me but it wouldn't be a deal breaker. Bed length would be a deal breaker if it were not long enough.

    • Vulpine Vulpine on Jul 11, 2019

      @Jeff S: You and I aren't too different, even if I'm not a farmer or rancher; our attitudes about our vehicles are similar. I griped at Subaru for dropping the Baja when they did; my wife and I were seriously considering it when it was dropped and a few months later we ended up buying a Wrangler instead. Got 9 good years out of that Wrangler but it wasn't exactly what we wanted nor needed since its interior capacity (overhead too low for some loads and dropping the top entirely means there's a big, bulky, canvas-fluffed bar across the tailgate, making it harder to load the thing you want to carry.) If (and yes, that's one BIG word) the bed gets the extension capability they've demonstrated on the concept vehicle, then your bed length may not be as much an issue as some want to believe.

  • Jeff S Jeff S on Jul 11, 2019

    @el scotto--That was my point about the full size trucks is that it is hard to compete against Ford, Ram, and GM and yes they do have the advantage when it comes to sourcing and buying parts because they make their trucks in huge volumes. Toyota and Nissan on the other hand have good full size trucks but they don't have the advantages that Ford, Ram, and GM have when it comes to volume and cost. I know that Toyota doesn't depend on Tundra nor does Nissan depend on the Titan for their sales but I was using that as an example that Hyundai and Kia should not try to complete in the full size truck market. Might be just as hard for Hyundai and Kia to compete in the midsize truck market so that leaves the compact truck market which is not represented in the US. It might take H and K sometime to establish themselves in the truck market even if they release a compact truck and both need to be willing to take less profit or even losses in the short term. Just a lot of unknowns but then whenever a manufacturer release a totally new product there are always risks.

  • Aidian Holder I'm not interested in buying anything from a company that deliberately targets all their production in crappy union-busting states. Ford decided to build their EV manufaturing in Tennessee. The company built it there because of an anti-union legal environment. I won't buy another Ford because of that. I've owned four Fords to date -- three of them pickups. I'm shopping for a new one. It won't be a Ford Lightning. If you care about your fellow workers, you won't buy one either.
  • Denis Jeep have other cars?!?
  • Darren Mertz In 2000, after reading the glowing reviews from c/d in 1998, I decided that was the car for me (yep, it took me 2 years to make up my mind). I found a 1999 with 24k on the clock at a local Volvo dealership. I think the salesman was more impressed with it than I was. It was everything I had hoped for. Comfortable, stylish, roomy, refined, efficient, flexible, ... I can't think of more superlatives right now but there are likely more. I had that car until just last year at this time. A red light runner t-boned me and my partner who was in the passenger seat. The cops estimate the other driver hit us at about 50 mph - on a city street. My partner wasn't visibly injured (when the seat air bag went off it shoved him out of the way of the intruding car) but his hip was rather tweaked. My car, though, was gone. I cried like a baby when they towed it away. I ruminated for months trying to decide how to replace it. Luckily, we had my 1998 SAAB 9000 as a spare car to use. I decided early on that there would be no new car considered. I loathe touch screens. I'm also not a fan of climate control. Months went by. I decided to keep looking for another B5 Passat. As the author wrote, the B5.5 just looked 'over done'. October this past year I found my Cinderella slipper - an early 2001. Same silver color. Same black leather interior. Same 1.8T engine. Same 5 speed manual transmission. I was happier than a pig in sh!t. But a little sad also. I had replaced my baby. But life goes on. I drive it every day to work which takes me over some rather twisty freeway ramps. I love the light snarel as I charge up some steep hills on my way home. So, I'm a dyed-in-the-wool Passat guy.
  • Paul Mezhir As awful as the styling was on these cars, they were beautifully assembled and extremely well finished for the day. The doors closed solidly, the ride was extremely quiet and the absence of squeaks and rattles was commendable. As for styling? Everything's beautiful in it's own way.....except for the VI's proportions were just odd: the passenger compartment and wheelbase seemed to be way too short, especially compared to the VI sedan. Even the short-lived Town Coupe had much better proportions. None of the fox-body Lincolns could compare to the beautiful proportions of the Mark was the epitome of long, low, sleek and elegant. The proportions were just about perfect from every angle.
  • ToolGuy Silhouetting yourself on a ridge like that is an excellent way to get yourself shot ( Skylining)."Don't you know there's a special military operation on?"