The Hyundai Santa Cruz ute , revealed today in Detroit, would add significant sales volume to the South Korean brand's local division, and in so doing would change the dynamics of manufacturers chasing the number two spot behind Toyota.
In 2014, the sales difference between the second (Holden) and fourth (Hyundai) spot was a mere 6,081 units, with top full-importer Mazda only beating Hyundai by 693 sales for the whole year.
It wouldn't be a big call to suggest that the addition of a Hyundai Ute, a gap the company is very keen to fill in its range, would see the company overcome this pair, both of whom, compete heavily in the pick up segment alongside runaway sales leader Toyota.
Speaking to CarAdvice at the Detroit motor show today, Hyundai Australia’s chief operating officer John Elsworth confirmed as much, telling us that number two spot with a ute in the lineup shouldn’t be a big challenge.
“I wouldn’t think that would be a drama,” Elsworth said. “The volume opportunity is all incremental as we don’t currently have an entrant in that segment.”
Elsworth says selling around 1,500 utes per month would be at the upper limit of where Hyundai sales might be, but even at a 1,000 ute sales per month, the gap to Holden is surpassed, and that's assuming Holden's sales stay where they presently are.
The challenge, according to Elsworth, would be in regards to the Santa Cruz’s body type availability. “[Sales volume] depends on if you have a single cab, dual cab or crew cab. If you only have a dual cab, it will limit sales," he said.
The challenge will also come from the Hyundai Santa Cruz’s platform, which is shared with the next-generation Hyundai ix35, meaning that while it will be available as an all-wheel drive, the option for a two-wheel drive model may be restricted to a front-wheel drive variant – although at this stage the ute remains entirely in concept form so any talks of drivetrain potential are purely hypotheticals.
Asked what the unique selling point of a Hyundai ute will be, Elsworth said “our cars come with the best warranty in the market and the best aftersales in the market, so if you add all those together...", before adding also that Hyundai’s unique design perspective will come into play.
It's also worth noting that when the locally made Holden Commodore goes out of production by 2018, it will leave Holden with a challenging task to fill the volume (30,203 Commodore sales for 2014), so there's every chance Hyundai can overtake Holden even without the need for a ute by then.
The Hyundai Ute concept sits somewhere between a Toyota Hilux and traditional Falcon/Commodore ute in terms of size, so either way, with the disappearance of the locally manufactured utes in the next few years, the Hyundai ute is likely to pick up significant volume if it makes it to production.