Not a Rash Decision: Hyundai Greenlights Santa Cruz Pickup for 2021

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
em not em a rash decision hyundai greenlights santa cruz pickup for 2021

Think back to early 2015. January, to be exact. The world was nearly five years younger, and social media was less of a scourge. Far fewer grey hairs polluted this writer’s temples, his cynicism was still manageable, and the unlikely star of the Detroit International Auto Show happened to be a unique unibody pickup from Hyundai.

The Santa Cruz Concept unveiled at that show (seen above for the umpteenth time) employed clamshell doors for access to a tight backseat and a bed that straddled the line between Colorado and Baja. Boasting a modern, eye-catching body, it positioned itself as a youthful, entry-level activity vehicle for those with little interest in the size and expense of a larger, traditional pickup.

Nearly five years later, the Santa Cruz is finally, officially headed for production.

The decision to bring the concept to fruition was clearly not a light one to make; Hyundai brass reportedly sat on the fence for some time. For sure, we’ve been reporting on its limbo status for years, though in the past couple of annums the company has provided almost ironclad hints that it would eventually see the light of day.

Late Wednesday, the automaker made its intentions clear.

Production begins in Montgomery, Alabama in 2021, Hyundai said. The new addition to its lone American assembly plant will cost the automaker $410 million and deliver 200 new workers for the UAW to chase after.

After a post-recession sales surge, the brand’s American momentum tapered off, then shifted into reverse as the crossover craze left Hyundai scrambling for more sure-fire product to tempt cargo-conscious buyers. With those models now in production, it seems the coast is clear for a slightly more daring member of the Hyundai family.

It’s interesting that Hyundai’s announcement doesn’t contain the word “pickup.” Indeed, the automaker provides only a vague description of the production-bound model, referring to it as a “crossover” and a “compact utility vehicle.”

From Hyundai:

Santa Cruz is for those who want all the traditional attributes of a compact utility vehicle, but need the day-to-day versatility of an open bed. It’s the crossover that creates a whole new segment that successfully combines capability and utility to meet the unspoken needs of a new generation of buyers, especially Millennials.

Little is known about what form the CUV-with-a-bed will take, but don’t expect to see a close copy of the now-dated concept. Design head SangYup Lee has said the production vehicle will take on a more contemporary look. Beneath it will be a platform used by an existing product — perhaps that of the Tucson, which sees a new generation arrive for 2021.

And those nifty doors? Don’t bet the farm on seeing them appear on the Montgomery assembly line.

[Images: Hyundai]

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2 of 34 comments
  • JD-Shifty JD-Shifty on Nov 16, 2019

    I'd be in if it has a manual and AWD and gets over 30mpg. If it gets bad mileage it better be sporty

  • Jeff S Jeff S on Nov 17, 2019

    AWD would not be bad unless they priced it too high and made it too large. I don't want to see another Ridgeline, not that the Ridgeline is a bad vehicle but it would be good to have a true compact pickup with a useable bed. I also don't want it to have a CVT or a double clutch automatic--it would be nice if a manual were offered as well as an automatic. Build it like this concept model and I might be interested.

  • Bobbysirhan I suppose this explains why almost everything that makes a GM product function has been Chinese for several years now.
  • Kevin 35 grand if a 2 door but not a 4 door!
  • Kevin 35 grand USD for a 57 wagon that still needs lots of work such as spindles body work and what ever else maybe 25 but 35 no thanks I'll stick with what I have. Floor pans replaced and whatever else my 68 chevelle I paid $4800.00 USD 20 years ago and is all original.
  • FreedMike Needs a few more HP to really spice things up...
  • Oberkanone Absolute insanity on our public roads! A danger to society. Bravo Dodge!