About a year ago, Dave Zuchowski, former president and CEO of Hyundai Motor America, said the Korean automaker had internally greenlit the production of a pickup truck but was not yet ready to announce it. Today, Michael J. O’Brien, Hyundai’s American vice president of corporate and product planning, made that announcement, confirming that not only will Hyundai build a pickup truck, it will sell that truck in the U.S.
Speaking to Reuters, O’Brien said the new truck will be similar to the Santa Cruz concept it showed off at the Detroit Auto Show back in 2015. Sadly, he didn’t say how similar the production truck would be to the concept or even if it would still be called the Santa Cruz. But as Reuters points out, recent shifts in American buying habits mean Hyundai can’t depend on sedan sales like it traditionally has. In the first seven months of 2017, for example, Sonata sales have fallen 30 percent compared to 2016. Hyundai’s SUV sales, meanwhile, are up 11 percent. Adding another utility vehicle to its lineup could be necessary if Hyundai wants to reverse its 11-percent sales slide for the year.
Positioning the Korean pickup in the U.S. market could still be a challenge, though. If it’s sold as a true midsize truck, it’ll face stiff competition from the likes of the Toyota Tacoma and Chevrolet Colorado. But if it’s sized smaller like the Santa Cruz concept to avoid direct competition, it could struggle to attract enough buyers. As risky as it could be, we’d like to think the concept got the size right. Midsize trucks today are still larger and more capable than most buyers need. And for buyers who would appreciate the utility of a truck but don’t necessarily care about towing capacity, maximum payload, or serious off-roading, a smaller, more-efficient truck could be exactly what they need.
Plus, the Santa Cruz just looks cool. That’s enough of a reason to get excited right there.