Hyundai's commercial division is desperate for a ute, and years of presenting business cases to the company's Korean headquarters have finally paid off: the project is now moving forward.
While the Hyundai Santa Cruz concept depicted a lifestyle ute, it's not the vehicle Hyundai has pitched to its global headquarters. Instead, Hyundai Australia is after a ute range that includes low-rider, high-rider, dual cab, single cab, extra cab and both 4x2 and 4x4 variants.
Speaking exclusively with CarAdvice at the recent Hyundai i30 launch in South Korea, Hyundai Australia chief operating officer Scott Grant said that it's only recently that the project has grown legs.
"For a number of years now we have made through our product planning team a number of submissions to HMC about the market conditions in Australia, and it's pretty obvious that LCVs in general are substantial in terms of sales percentage in our market - and we don't compete in that segment outside of iLoad," Grant said.
"We have done some significant detailed studies on the competition over recent years, and there has been a number of recent entrants to that market as well, so we've continued to update that material with HMC.
"They've been listening and, back five years ago, they told us they are busy with other things. In the last couple of years they've said we've received similar enquiries from other markets and the project is now moving forward."
Grant said a high-riding SUV based off the ute product would also form part of Hyundai's local product strategy, giving the brand a proper competitor against the Ford Everest, Mitsubishi Pajero Sport and the Holden Trailblazer.
"We've requested the whole shooting match: 4x2, 4x4, single cab, extra cab, dual cab, a number of combinations. If we're going to do it, we'll do it properly and have a good crack at it. Who knows, off the basis of that structure we can then do a high riding SUV, for example," Grant said.
"We understand that it is starting to come to fruition. Mr Rhim [International Operations Division Executive Vice President] commented to us the other day that it's commencing within the next couple of years."
When asked about a performance version of the ute — perhaps one to go up against the likes of Volkswagen's Amarok V6 diesel — Grant admitted that Hyundai's ambition means anything is possible, even a performance ute.
"I think so. Why not. We've got the credentials to build any product we put our mind to and that's proven more recently with the N Series, for example, and something like the Genesis. We've got the ability to do anything we put our minds to," Grant said.