Hyundai Santa Cruz pickup with four doors, five seats, due around 2020
25 April 2018 - autoblog
Big departure from the concept, but it enters a competitive landscape
You could boil three years of coverage on the Hyundai Santa Cruz pickup to a question mark. The "crossover truck" debuted at the 2015 Detroit Auto Show, then got swallowed in the executive turmoil at Hyundai Motor America. Reuters reported last year that the Santa Cruz would finally arrive by 2020 as part of the South Korean carmaker's push into SUVs. Motor Trend recently spoke to Brian Smith, the COO at HMA, and got a crucial detail on the eventual truck. Forget about the sleek, two-door concept from Detroit — the actual item will be a "four-door ... that seats five."
The redesigned Hyundai Tucson is also due in 2020, the compact crossover providing the platform for the Santa Cruz. If connecting the dots is really this simple, it mean's we'll be getting Hyundai's version of the Honda Ridgeline, the only unibody compact pickup on sale in the U.S. at the moment. And that makes us wonder how the Santa Cruz will fare whenever it gets here. Anyone who wanted to put money down on something similar to the highly popular concept has been booted from the game. They've been replaced by those who can be lured by an alternative to the Ridgeline, but the questions are how many buyers is that, and will the production Santa Cruz be the right truck to close the deal?
In 2016, then-CEO Dave Zuchowski said Hyundai research showed the possibility of moving at least 50,000 pickups a year, and other studies suggested 70,000 sales could be possible. Even at the low end, that suggests a remarkable pent-up demand for the kind of truck that's never succeeded in the U.S. The Ridgeline sold 34,749 units in 2017, and numbers are down nearly 30 percent down so far this year. Meanwhile, the body-on-frame (BOF) GMC Canyon sold 32,106 units last year, and it was merely piggybacking on the Chevrolet Colorado, which did 112,996 sales. Even the BOF Nissan Frontier, last refreshed during the Bronze Age, sold 74,360 models. What's more, by the time the Santa Cruz gets here, the new BOF Ford Ranger will revel in actual pent-up demand, and the really cool kids will still be cooing over their new BOF Jeep Wrangler pickup. Looking back at the Ridgeline space, we await word from Volkswagen on the fate of the Tanoak concept.
Hyundai could choose to take a stand in the unibody pickup segment on price; the Ridgeline whips up its own headwinds by charging $8,000 more than a Canyon, $11,000 more than a Frontier. Still, a Tucson with a bed, that is two years away ... Is that what the segment wants, even at a competitive price? Raise your hand if you're out there.