Speaking to the media at the Detroit motor show this week, Hyundai Australia’s head of public relations, Bill Thomas, said that while the ute is not 100 per cent confirmed yet, it's being well received by those that can give it the green light.
“At a high level, it has been well received, but It’s not quite signed off [for production],” Thomas said.
“It’s not 100 per cent signed off, it’s in development and it’s at a certain stage and it has been well received but it’s not 100 per cent go yet.”
If it gets the final green light (which we suspect is more than likely), Thomas says it’s possible that we will see it unveiled in some form or another in 2020, before it goes into full-scale production by 2021.
For years, the South Korean brand has been missing out in a booming segment not just in Australia but also ute-loving markets such as Thailand. Nonetheless, Hyundai has been hesitant about the ute category given its other priorities, like its new luxury brand Genesis and establishing the N division for its performance models.
Building a Ranger rival - which would presumably require a standalone platform, and therefore a huge investment - may not necessarily have huge sales potential in already established markets such as Australia, and it differs from the lifestyle-orientated Santa Cruz ute concept (pictured) which made its public debut at the 2015 Detroit motor show.
“[Platform sharing would be] very unlikely, it’s most likely going to be a 100 per cent Hyundai job and engineered by ourselves, I would be very surprised if there were any plans to share platforms,” said Thomas.
That lack of sharing may also extend to sister brand Kia, with the company’s head designer, Peter Schreyer, admitting to CarAdvice today that there are “no plans at this time [for a ute]” from the company.
Last year, Hyundai Australia’s chief operating officer, Scott Grant, told CarAdvice the ute for the North American market and our market will be separate products.
“About 12-18 months ago HMC began its own study for developing a light commercial vehicle, for our part of the market as well as what North America would like,” Grant said referring to the lifestyle-focused Hyundai Santa Cruz.
“You’ve seen the developments for North America [Santa Cruz] and that is not applicable to our market but our market program is still in development and we’re confident in having it on the other side of 2020.”
When it launches, the Hyundai ute is expected to be a dual-cab 4×4, much like the current crop of big-sellers that includes the Toyota HiLux and Ford Ranger.