Back in 2015, Hyundai made waves at the Detroit Auto Show when it unveiled the Santa Cruz concept pickup. Four years later, we still don’t have any sign of the production version… but that may be about to change.
The South Korean automaker recently confirmed that a small pickup truck is still on the table. And not only is it alive, but that it will be versatile enough to “create a whole new class of buyers.” Michael O’Brien, Hyundai Motor’s product VP for US, stated in a Bloomberg interview that the upcoming product won’t be aimed at traditional truck buyers.
As originally envisioned, the Santa Cruz concept was a striking crossover-type truck that seated five. It was propelled by a 2.0L four-cylinder turbodiesel engine making 190hp and 300-lb ft. of torque.
If that sounds paltry compared to today’s 1,000 lb-ft monsters, it’s because Hyundai marketed the concept for “urban adventurers”, similar to the Honda Ridgeline’s branding as a “lifestyle pickup.” In a sense, Hyundai’s upcoming truck will likely be targeted at young urban dwellers who need a small and affordable vehicle, instead of the traditional half-ton brutes from the Big Three.
In fact, the Korean automaker did not design the concept with the normal pickup attributes in mind, like ground clearance, payload rating and towing capability. Instead, it was designed as a bridge between sedans and crossovers, with a cargo utility. In this regard, it featured a novel sliding extension that spanned the whole length of the bed. It could slide back even with the tailgate up to accommodate larger cargo, making it a versatile hauler for city streets.
According to insiders, the production version has changed from the 2.5-door (with rear suicide doors) concept to a more traditional quadcab design. It will share the same platform with the 2020 Tucson compact SUV, and there might also be a Kia version after launch. Hyundai’s chief designer says the design was finalized last December and the company is hustling to get it out the door “as soon as possible.”
Interestingly, the company recently trademarked three names: Grandeur, Leonis and Pavise. “Leonis” means lion-like strength, while “Pavise” is a medieval shield used by archers. There’s a good chance the pickup will be named after either of these two, and the other one will be used for Hyundai’s upcoming rival to the Toyota Land Cruiser SUV.
Finally, the truck will definitely be manufactured in North America to avoid the 25% chicken tax. O’Brien says that Mexico-made vehicles have come under fire from the Trump administration, so there’s a very strong possibility it will be made stateside. Hyundai has two plants in the US: one in Montgomery, Alabama that produces the Elantra, Sonata and Santa Fe; and the second in West Point, Georgia that churns out the Optima, Sorento and Telluride for Kia.
The company has been itching to get on the red-hot pickup truck market in America as prices soar and demand continues to surge. The sticker price of pickups rose 61% over the past decade compared to the 28% industry average, and the pickup segment nets the highest profit margin among mass-produced passenger vehicles.
As average truck buyers get priced out, Hyundai is looking to take a slice of the entry-level compact pickup market. In fact, O’Brien notes the strong demand for used Toyota Tacomas from buyers that can’t afford a new one, making it clear that their audience will be young urban professionals shopping for small trucks like the Tacoma and Ford Ranger.
Here’s hoping that Hyundai’s future Taco-fighter will be big on features and light on the wallet, when it finally comes.