A production-spec Santa Cruz? Read on.
It was back in 2015 when Hyundai launched the Santa Cruz concept at the Detroit Auto Show. Though it was car-based, the Santa Cruz was a pickup truck and it became a smash hit. "It's still one of the most talked about concepts on social media. We get letters about it every day," said Mike O'Brien, Hyundai's Vice President of Product Planning when we chatted with him at LA last week. As it turns out, Kia is also interested in a pickup truck specifically for America, as we learned from Orth Hedrick, O'Brien's Kia counterpart, a couple of years back. Does this all mean Hyundai and Kia are pushing ahead with a pickup truck? If so, what platform will it ride on?
Will it be car-based or body on frame? Well, new information is coming to light, based on our talks with O'Brien as well as what Autocar learned from Hyundai Motor Group's newly minted Chief Design Officer Luc Donckerwolke. According to O'Brien, Hyundai believes it's necessary to borrow principles from other truck markets, specifically cab-overs. "The word payload has so much more meaning," he said. "Every inch of the truck should be generating income. The bed is only one-third of the truck so two-thirds aren't generating incoming." Translation: Hyundai believes a smaller pickup truck is its best answer. "Things are changing," O'Brien added. "We have to improve fuel economy. Younger people are moving into urban environments and the only way to park a pickup truck is to back in."
That all said, Donckerwolke was quite direct with Autocar: "You've seen the (Santa Cruz) pickup from the 2015 Detroit show. That car is under development at Hyundai." When will it be ready to go? "As soon as possible. From my side, it is finished. The process to put it into production is now under way." Essentially, O'Brien strongly hinted a truck is under development while Donckerwolke outright admitted a production-spec Santa Cruz is happening. But unlike, say, the Toyota Tacoma, the Santa Cruz is expected to be based on the same platform underpinning the Tucson crossover, meaning it'll be car-based.
Think of it as more of a direct competitor to the also car-based Honda Ridgeline. No exact time frame to launch was given, but now that the Palisade three-row crossover has arrived, Hyundai can focus on other projects.