It looks like the Santa Cruz will be Hyundai's first and last gas-powered pickup.
Although the Hyundai Santa Cruz trails the Ford Maverick by around 20,000 units for 2022 sales so far, the Korean pickup is still an excellent vehicle that blends the strengths of an SUV and a pickup into a single package. So successful are these two small pickups that Toyota is also considering launching something to compete with them. But now that Hyundai has proven it can build an appealing truck with a unibody chassis, could the brand take the next step and build a more traditional pickup with a ladder frame chassis? Yes, but according to a prominent Hyundai official, it will be electric.
Speaking to Australia's Drive, Thomas Schemera - Hyundai vice president of product and strategy - strongly hinted that a new pickup for the Aussie market and elsewhere would not use a conventional gas or diesel powertrain.
"I have had many discussions with the Australian market, I know there is a big demand for that [a ute] and I really respect that," said Schemera. "But to start developing vehicles on an ICE [petrol or diesel-engined] basis doesn't make any sense."
Schemera's comments are not necessarily a big shock since Hyundai is rapidly transitioning to electrification. The new Ioniq 5 is here and the dramatic Ioniq 6 has just been revealed. Besides that, others like Ford and General Motors have already launched their first electric pickups.
As the Santa Cruz is sold in the United States only, there is a gap for Hyundai to launch a more conventional truck in other markets like Australia. Well, conventional in the sense that it would have more rugged truck underpinnings; Schemera's comments seem to rule out the possibility of a brawny V6 or V8-powered Hyundai truck to rival the Ranger or gas-powered F-150.
"Nothing has been confirmed yet," said Schemera when talking about Hyundai's next truck. "But I can imagine if there is a way to showcase and to compose vehicles like that - for example for Australia and for the US - we [will] make it happen."
By around 2026, Kia is also planning to enter the electric pickup segment. Considering that Hyundai and Kia's plans are often in sync, this is possibly when Hyundai's own electric pickup could arrive. Our guess is that it will be a Ranger-sized vehicle with a lot more capability than the smaller Santa Cruz, which means it'd compete with the upcoming Ranger Lightning. Despite Ford's continued superiority in the truck segment, we wouldn't rule out Hyundai's second pickup giving the Blue Oval a run for its money.