Four years after the concept truck debuted, Hyundai will finally be producing the Santa Cruz pickup truck

The Hyundai Santa Cruz pickup concept was unveiled in 2015 at the North American International Auto Show and, despite being well received, Hyundai has been on the fence about it - until now. After over four years, Hyundai has finally announced that it will be manufacturing the truck at its U.S. factory. Is it too late to the party, though?

Hyundai To Go Full Throttle With A Big Investment

The Hyundai Santa Cruz is FINALLY Heading to the US Market Emblems and Logo Exterior
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A senior official said that finding a place to build the Santa Cruz was one of the biggest challenges it faced. After much deliberation, Hyundai chose its Montgomery, Alabama assembly plant as the birthplace of the pickup truck. As a result, the company will be pumping $410 million into the plant for expansion.

This is not just for the Santa Cruz, but also for products like the redesigned Santa Fe which is seeing a rise in demand.

Hyundai also said that the Santa Cruz will create 200 direct jobs at the plant and 1,000 indirect jobs through regional suppliers.

Currently, the factory employs 2,900 full-time and 500 part-time employees. This, by the way, also happens to be the first plant Hyundai had set up in the States.

The Santa Cruz Will Be A Lifestyle Truck

The Hyundai Santa Cruz is FINALLY Heading to the US Market High Resolution Exterior
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Even though the Santa Cruz naturally fits into the mid-size pickup truck segment and would take on the Colorado, Tacoma, and Gladiator, Hyundai has said that the Santa Cruz will be targeted to a different audience. Hyundai is taking inspiration from Chevy LUV’s business model, wherein the truck was targeted to the ‘Baby Boomers’ back in the 70s and 80s.

Hyundai will be marketing the Santa Cruz as “more of a lifestyle, urban commuter vehicle.”

Instead of being pinned on a traditional, body-on-frame architecture, the Santa Cruz will be based on a car-like crossover platform, similar to the Honda Ridgeline.

Hyundai’s Plans for The Santa Cruz?

The Hyundai Santa Cruz is FINALLY Heading to the US Market High Resolution Exterior
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Hyundai is entering the market at a time when major automakers are moving towards electrifying their trucks. So, by the time the Korean automaker finds its footing, it will have to adapt to electrification. Where does this leave the Santa Cruz? Recently, one of the company’s head honchos said that Hyundai will be launching a full range of commercial utes to take its share of the pie in the ever-growing segment. It will be based on the Santa Cruz concept pickup. However, the approach seems to be completely different here.

The Hyundai Santa Cruz is FINALLY Heading to the US Market High Resolution Exterior
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The biggest problem that Hyundai will face will be the body types it will offer.

There are all sorts of permutations and combinations, and it is not possible for a company to launch all the engine + bodywork + drive type combinations all at once.

And Hyundai seems to understand the problem as well. A company official had earlier addressed this: “we’re looking at a range. When you cut up the ute market, you split it up between 4x4 and 4x2, who owns 4x2 and what powertrain goes with that [internally] and then 4x4 crew cab versus cab/chassis and so on… we want to be smart about it and that’s what we’re going through at the moment. Andrew [Tuatahi, Hyundai product manager] is having a lot of sleepless nights over this because we’re going fast down that road, but we do need to be smart about it so that when people look at it, they say ‘yep, that’s it’.”

The Hyundai Santa Cruze Will Play Two Different Roles In Two Different Countries

The Hyundai Santa Cruz is FINALLY Heading to the US Market Exterior
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Prior to the local manufacturing confirmation, there were rumors that the truck would be imported, perhaps from Australia. But Hyundai was quick to extinguish these rumors and said that if the truck was to come to the States, then it would need to have an assembly plant here. Imported trucks attract a 25 percent tariff, which would make the truck an expensive affair and probably a dead-on-arrival product. But the product will surely reach here in the future because there is a growing market for small utes. The Ford Ranger made a comeback and although it has started slow, there is a consistent rise in sales every month.

However, now it’s clear that the Santa Cruz will be more of a crossover with a bed instead of a hardcore pickup truck in the U.S.

Well, Hyundai is not trying anything new here. It is just tapping into a niche that might soon emerge as a popular segment. Compact pickups used to be a “thing” a few decades back but soon wandered off into oblivion. With products like the Santa Cruz, they could make a comeback. Ford said that it is already working on a model smaller than the Ranger. Volkswagen, too, showed off a concept at the 2018 New York Auto Show called the Atlas Tanoak. Does it ring a bell? So, you never know, the compact pickup truck segment might be revived in the future.

Final Thoughts

The Hyundai Santa Cruz is FINALLY Heading to the US Market High Resolution Exterior
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According to CNBC, a company insider said that it will take at least 18 months to begin production of the Santa Cruz truck. That means that we can expect the truck to be rolled out of showrooms from the far-end of 2021 or from 2022. Also, the truck will most likely look radically different from the concept truck. It could get better, it could look worse, but most importantly, it will bear more resemblance to the current crop of SUVs and crossovers it has in its lineup.

There are no details whatsoever about the engine it will feature, or the design, or anything about the product at all. But now that its arrival is confirmed, you can expect more news to follow. Do you think Hyundai can still succeed with a pickup truck? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.

Sidd Dhimaan
Associate Editor and Truck Expert - sidd@topspeed.com
Sidd joined the Topspeed.com team in 2017 as an intern and in less than a year he earned a full-time position as an associate editor and junior automotive expert. He is currently our pickup truck expert and focuses his attention on heavy-duty and off-road vehicles.  Read More
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