Michael J. Obrien, vice president of corporate and product planning at Hyundai Motor America made the announcement today, when he told Reuters that the company’s top-level management had green lit the development of a small pick-up similar to the Santa Cruz concept, which Hyundai revealed at the 2015 Detroit motor show.
The move comes in the wake of Hyundai dealers in the US pushing the carmaker to shift its product mix to more light trucks and fewer sedans, which have continued to lose ground over the last few years.
In the first seven months of 2017, Sonata sales (once the mainstay of US dealer sales) has fallen 30 per cent, compared with 2016. Meanwhile, Hyundai’s SUV line-up is up by 11 per cent.
As a result, Hyundai will invest heavily in a range of new SUVs over the next few years, commencing with the launch of the subcompact Kona in the U.S. later this year.
The company also plans to launch three new or refreshed SUVs by 2020, including a new version of its Sante Fe Sport (sold here as the Santa Fe), as well as a new seven-seat vehicle to replace that market's larger Sante Fe - which is not currently offered here - in 2019. There’s also a refreshed Tucson expected in 2020.
Most people agree that the size of the Santa Cruz concept has potential, though not without challenges. It will need to compete with popular models like the Toyota Tacoma and Chevrolet Colorado - both of which are larger, but seen in the US as small pick-ups.
Unfortunately, Australia looks an unlikely prospect for the Santa Cruz, though. Bill Thomas, General Manager External Affairs told CarAdvice today that while they are keeping a close eye on it, the vehicle is unlikely to come here.
“We have no confirmation that it will be built in right-hand drive, for starters, and if it were, Australia would likely be the only significant right-hand-drive market.
“So, while we aren’t ruling anything out, a more suitable pickup for us would be one that would rival market leaders like Hilux and Ranger – one that could equal or beat those vehicles for towing ability and for total payload,” Thomas added.
The Santa Cruz is a smaller pickup that doesn’t require that level of towing/payload capability.