No official announcement has been made yet, but it appears clear that a production version of the Hyundai Santa Cruz lifestyle utility is on its way.
CarAdvice spent some time at the 2016 Detroit auto show with Hyundai Motor America president and chief executive Dave Zuchowski, who didn’t mince words about the potential for the Tucson-based utility vehicle to hit showrooms.
“What’s the easiest way to say that? We’re waiting more for an announcement than we are for an approval, right?” Zuchowski asserted.
“So HMC [Hyundai Motor Company] is going to dictate (when that happens). We feel really good about it.
“It hasn’t been officially announced yet. Our timing is not crossing our fingers and waiting for approval, it’s trying to figure out when we’re going to announce it,” he said.
With that said, whether the production Santa Cruz will be for the world or just for the US remains something of a mystery – but Zuchowski gave some insight, suggesting that while it may find more favour in certain parts of the world already accustomed to lifestyle focused pick-ups, it could test the waters in new areas, too.
“I’m not clear on the other markets, but from our perspective it’s a vehicle that will be exported to other markets,” he said.
Hyundai Australia public relations general manager Bill Thomas advised CarAdvice that there are still plenty of unknowns about the new model and its potential to be sold locally.
“If it’s a production vehicle, it’s about where it’s produced and whether or not it can be made in right-hand drive,” he said.
“That’s an economic decision based on numbers.”
That the car is based on the Tucson platform means it could be manufactured in a number of plants worldwide, including Korea and Czech Republic. It may also be built in North or South America.
Currently, though, the plants are said to be at capacity, so where the Santa Cruz production model will be made is going to be a key factor in its potential for local launch.
Further, Thomas indicated that even though it won’t be a typical dual-cab ute in the sense of big load and towing capacity as the mainstream set such as the Toyota HiLux, Ford Ranger, Nissan Navara and others have, it could fill a void in the market created by the demise of the Holden Ute and Ford Falcon Ute.
“We’d still look at it,” Thomas said. “As an urban runabout and as a practical lifestyle utility it works well.
In the US, the car is expected to play in white space, as General Motors, Ford and Ram own the large ute segment, while the Toyota Tacoma and Chevrolet Colorado dominating the mid-size segment.
“To rule it out for Australia would be wrong,” Thomas said.