Hyundai Santa Cruz Crossover Truck Edges Closer to Reality

HUNTINGTON BEACH, California — Car shoppers may soon be able to put a Hyundai "crossover truck" on their lists.

The Korean automaker is expected to make a decision on whether to build the truck, which was previewed in the Hyundai Santa Cruz concept at the 2015 Detroit Auto Show, by late summer. Hyundai Motor America is lobbying in favor of the truck.

At the time of its debut, the Santa Cruz was described as a crossover truck aimed at a "new generation of buyers, especially Millennials." It is essentially a crossover SUV with a pickup box.

Hyundai will be able to quickly turn the concept into a production vehicle, Edmunds has learned from an industry source.

Rather than creating a unique vehicle, the Santa Cruz will share its vehicle architecture and many components with the front-wheel-drive Hyundai Tucson SUV. The truck is expected to be all-wheel drive and cater to consumers who like the look of a pickup but don't want or need a rugged body-on-frame vehicle.

"We would not be starting from scratch with this vehicle, that is fair to say," Scott Margason, Hyundai Motor America's director of product planning, told Edmunds in a recent interview.

He said there is "a lot of active work going on within the company in terms of whether we take that concept to production."

Margason estimated that approximately one to two years of development time would be saved, once it gets the go-ahead, compared with engineering a unique vehicle platform for the Santa Cruz.

A production Santa Cruz would seat five and feature ride and handling similar to a crossover SUV.

The concept is smaller than the Chevrolet Colorado, Nissan Frontier and Toyota Tacoma.

"We introduced the Santa Cruz in Detroit and that vehicle was very well received, not only during the show but since then," Margason said. "We got a lot of consumer feedback from it — very positive."

He would not predict the likelihood of production, however.

An industry source told Edmunds that Dave Zuchowski, Hyundai Motor America's CEO, has been urging management in South Korea to build the Santa Cruz. Automotive News reported that Zuchowski is predicting a "green light" for the pickup.

With the market slowly moving away from sedans to crossover SUVs, Hyundai needs additional crossover SUVs. Its current lineup includes the Hyundai Tucson, Santa Fe Sport and Santa Fe.

Hyundai has been talking about developing a pickup for about a decade.

The Santa Cruz would be marketed as a "lifestyle" vehicle here, one that would target consumers who like to camp, mountain bike and do home improvements. This is not a pickup for commercial buyers and Hyundai doesn't like to use the word "pickup" when describing the truck.

"We tend to refer to it as more of an open-utility vehicle," Margason said. "It is a personal-use vehicle."

In addition to further market research, Margason said the automaker is in the process of determining what powertrains it would offer.

The concept is equipped with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder diesel engine producing 190 horsepower. Fuel economy is estimated in the high 30-mpg range.

A diesel engine is under consideration for the production vehicle, the industry source told Edmunds.

Edmunds says: Hyundai is hoping to tap into a segment of buyers who want trucklike utility at an affordable price and are willing to give up some traditional truck capability to get it.