Hyundai has confirmed production of its Santa Cruz ute will start for North America in 2021.
The brand has stopped short of confirming the development of a workhorse in the past, but Hyundai has previously said we're likely to see a ute of some variety in Australia during 2022 or 2023.
Hyundai also wouldn't confirm whether the US market Santa Cruz is the same ute we'll be offered Down Under, telling CarAdvice: "We look at the suitability of all international products for the Australian market and Santa Cruz is no different, we are currently studying the business case."
However Mr Lee, who was earlier this week replaced, said Hyundai is yet to work out exactly what form its ute will take.
The Santa Cruz concept revealed in 2015 was a lifestyle-focused vehicle based on the Tucson SUV, something that wouldn't necessarily cut it in the Australian market – where a braked-towing capacity of 3500kg and a payload of around 1000kg and off-roading ability are a prerequisite.
Although it has confirmed production for the USA market, Hyundai offered no further details about its upcoming ute.
A team of experts from Hyundai recently visited Australia to study the ute market, having been to other Asian countries and the Middle East.
This shows that Hyundai hasn't locked in the design, size, engines and global manufacturing locations for its ute, meaning it has a long road ahead to develop one of the most complex vehicle types in the automotive world.
"There are still many areas we need to explore – 4x4, 4x2, single-cab, dual-cab," JW Lee told CarAdvice earlier this year.
"Those areas are yet to be decided. We are going to develop this pick-up for various markets. Each market has different demands. I think the researchers need to study more to come to a final decision [regarding] which way we go."
It's unlikely Hyundai would build a ute for the Australian market in the USA. It could, however, produce the vehicle at its Jeonju plant in South Korea.
Alternatively, it could establish a manufacturing facility in Thailand, where most of Australia's best-selling utes are made, including the Toyota HiLux, Ford Ranger, Holden Colorado, Nissan Navara, Isuzu D-Max and Mazda BT-50.
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Santa Cruz Crossover Truck Concept[/caption]
Hyundai has an annual sales target of about 15,000 vehicles, which would put it on par with the Mazda BT-50.