Hyundai U.S. CEO Stokes Santa Cruz Hype, Small Pickup Truck Fans Rejoice

Hyundai Motor America CEO Dave Zuchowski is making a name for himself as a worthy successor to the frank-talking John Krafcik. Not hiding behind PR caution or fear of tipping off competitors, Zuchowski told Wards Auto that Hyundai is getting ever closer to a decision on the Santa Cruz.

“It’s definitely making progress,” Zuchowski told Wards in an otherwise crossover-centric interview. Introduced as a small pickup truck concept at 2015’s North American International Auto Show in Detroit, the Hyundai Santa Cruz whetted the appetite of a surging non-full-size pickup truck market. The green light the Santa Cruz has been waiting for, however, is not yet shining bright. Not quite yet.

The five non-full-size pickup trucks currently available in the United States are decidedly largeish. Even the lone unibody pickup, the Honda Ridgeline, is 210 inches long and weighs more than 4,500 pounds.

The Santa Cruz, on the other hand, is a tidy truck. Hyundai believes it would attack a different section of the market than the Ridgeline. Hyundai also believes more than 40,000 copies of the Santa Cruz would need to be sold on an annual basis to justify its presence.

2015 Hyundai Santa Cruz Concept

We’ve been hearing indications that Hyundai was about to give the official go-ahead for more than a year. It’s apparently not easy determining just what a production Santa Cruz would look like, how many Hyundai could sell, how it would fit in Hyundai’s lineup, or how it would be targeted in the broader market.

“Hyundai Santa Cruz, Subcompact Crossover Close To Production,” a TTAC headline said in May 2015.

Two months later, “Hyundai May Actually Make The Tucson-based Santa Cruz, But…”

In fact, only days after its debut was already confirming Santa Cruz production as a done deal.

Meanwhile, Hyundai boss Zuchowski only recently told Wards, “It’s still not officially greenlit.” But after Hyundai Motor America’s vice president for corporate and product planning travelled to Korea for a “design review”, Zuchowski confirms, “A tremendous amount of work is being done on it.”

Zuchowski’s discussion with Wards also delved into some details related to Hyundai’s crossover strategy. “Right now we offer three crossovers that have some overlap in terms of price and package and aren’t directly in the sweet spot of any one of the segments,” Zuchowski said in reference to the Tucson, Santa Fe Sport, and Santa Fe.

A realignment of the hierarchy will also involve the launch of a subcompact crossover to take on the Honda HR-V, Chevrolet Trax, and other members of the nascent CUV B-segment. By choosing toforego the global Creta in North America, Hyundai is 18 months off the pace.

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