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2019 Hyundai Santa Cruz Pickup Almost Ready

Decision made to add new truck in 2018

Decision made to add new truck in 2018

It won’t be official until the Los Angeles or Detroit auto show, but Hyundai is poised to add the Santa Cruz pickup to its lineup in 2018 as a 2019 model.

“We have made the decision,” Dave Zuchowski, president and CEO of Hyundai Motor America, said. “We have not made the announcement.”

He said Hyundai is working on the lifestyle pickup, which would share a platform with the Tucson compact crossover. The car-based pickup—of the same ilk as the Honda Ridegline or discontinued Subaru Baja—went for design review in early August, and the automaker is close to locking in the final design.

The final truck could have either a gasoline or a diesel engine. Hyundai is developing a four-cylinder diesel engine to introduce the new Genesis luxury brand in Europe in a few years, and Zuchowski said he sees the new Santa Cruz and the full-size Santa Fe as candidates for the diesel in the U.S.

Internal studies suggest Hyundai could sell about 50,000 Santa Cruz pickups a year, and external studies put the figure as high as 70,000. The CEO said sales in that range “makes sense for us.”

The idea of a car-based pickup has been tried by others with varying degrees of success. Honda has a nice following and just introduced the second-generation Ridgeline after a two-year hiatus. But the Baja was discontinued in 2006, and other automakers, including Fiat Chrysler, have talked about a similar vehicle, but none have come to market. Regular body-on-frame compact pickups have enjoyed a resurgence, with GM getting back into the segment with the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon, Ford preparing to bring back the Ranger, and Jeep bringing back a Wrangler pickup.

Zuchowski sees potential for a lifestyle pickup if it is executed and priced properly. The Santa Cruz concept shown at the 2015 North American International Auto Show is a crossover with an expandable bed for the buyer who in the past has bought more truck than really needed. Pricing would start about $25,000 USD.

Zuchowski was hoping the Santa Cruz announcement could have been made earlier this year when Hyundai announced it was expanding truck production at its plant in Montgomery, Ala., to add the Santa Fe Sport. “It would have been a good time to announce another truck to show we’re correcting our adverse mix,” he said, referring to the fact that 62 percent of total industry U.S. sales are trucks and SUVs but are only 25 percent of Hyundai’s sales. Within the next four years the automaker expects to have a 45 percent truck mix through a combination of new products and production changes.

One part of rectifying the bad product mix is to remove 50,000 units of Sonata and Elantra car capacity in Montgomery and replace it with the Santa Fe Sport, which is also made at a Kia plant in West Point, Ga.

But the company was not ready to make the Santa Cruz announcement in June, Zuchowski said.

Nor is it decided where the Santa Cruz will be made. Possibilities include the Montgomery plant, which has the flexibility to add a fourth vehicle; Kia’s new plant in Mexico, which has not determined how all the capacity will be used; or it could be built in Korea with a phasing out of the 25-percent “chicken tax” on light truck imports by 2021.