Is Hyundai One Small Step Away From a Pickup?


Hyundai Motor America looks like it will be the first "non-pickup" automaker to offer something new in the form of a pickup truck for the North American segment. And to its credit, it looks like it's going to be the segment-splitting midsize Santa Cruz, a crossover utility truck.

The Santa Cruz concept vehicle created quite a bit of buzz during its world debut at the ; just a couple months later at the Hyundai was reporting that consumer feedback was strong and positive.

The concept vehicle was loosely based on Hyundai's popular seven-passenger Santa Fe crossover but reshaped with a sleeker aero design and reimagined open bed area. There have been many reports of Hyundai officials stating they're looking into offering this new type of midsize utility crossover, but only if consumer interest supported it.

Recently a Hyundai spokesman told us that Hyundai Motor America CEO Dave Zuchowski is optimistic about getting the green light for proceeding with the Santa Cruz, with timing for the new product coming as soon as November. "Consumer reaction has been overwhelmingly positive, and we hope to have some good news for them very soon," the spokesman said.

We like the fact that a car company like Hyundai (which offers sensibly priced cars and crossovers) is seriously considering taking a risk in this new segment with a uniquely styled vehicle. There's no question other automakers will be watching closely. But this phenomenon — segment experimentation when truck sales are strong — is not unique.

Fifteen years ago Volkswagen did some experimenting with the Advanced Activity Concept vehicle at the NAIAS, testing the "crossover pickup" idea right before it came to the U.S. market with its first full-size SUV, the VW Touareg. The AAC had a monster V-10 turbo-diesel and had quite a few torque enthusiasts drooling. Unfortunately, nothing came of it other than some interesting experiments from BMW and Mercedes-Benz in the form of oddly shaped "hybrid" pickups, largely based off their full-size SUV platforms.

With all this history behind this type of car-based crossover pickup, it probably won't surprise anyone to find out the chief designer for Hyundai, Peter Schreyer, spent a long time with VW and Audi, and that chief engineer Albert Biermann came from the high-performance group at BMW. With all that knowledge about concepts similar to the Santa Cruz, it's possible that Hyundai may have a better chance of making this new segment buster work. With a shared platform, as well as new vehicle capabilities (and maybe a new turbo-diesel engine option or two?), this "midsize-light" pickup could appeal to young families or active empty-nesters just enough to start the mini-truck craze all over again. photos by Mark Williams; Manufacturer images; Illustration by Mark Stehrenberger




Latest expert reviews