Reports of impending approval have been floating about almost since the day it was revealed, but, it is now understood that the Santa Cruz team have circled November for an anticipated green light.
According to US website Car & Driver, Hyundai America chief Dave Zuchowski said the Santa Cruz has been met with an “overwhelmingly positive” response since its January debut, leading the company’s Korean headquarters to take a favourable view of its production potential.
Although the compact urban ute is not expected to be made available to Australia, the Santa Cruz is expected to be just the start of Hyundai’s plans for the pickup market.
And, like Fiat Chrysler’s local boss Pat Dougherty and his dreams of securing the big Ram 1500 for Australia, there is little doubt within Hyundai’s Australian arm that a ute could do well here.
Speaking with CarAdvice in January, Hyundai Australia’s chief operating officer, John Elsworth, highlighted the carmaker’s growing appeal across a number of segments as evidence of its potential in the ute market.
“We don’t have any problem attracting customers in any segment that we go into. I think the iLoad gives us a lot of confidence that there’s plenty of tradesmen out there that have a Hyundai ute on their shopping list,” Elsworth said.
When a ute is eventually made available to Hyundai Australia, the company fully expects it will overtake Holden to become the nation’s third best-selling auto brand.
Still, with just 1638 sales separating the two brands at the end of June - 51,737 to 50,099 - the gap could be closed and reversed even sooner than that.
Hyundai has made no secret of its belief that the Tucson can take Mazda’s popular CX-5 head-on.
The Tucson’s predecessor, the smaller ix35, is on 9343 sales year-to-date (end of June), while the CX-5 holds a handy lead with 12,489 sales YTD.
If the Tucson can match that success, Hyundai’s battle with Holden could be up sooner rather than later. There can be little doubt that a ute model would seal the deal - but, then, Holden is hardly about to roll over.