Hyundai has taken another step toward production of its first pickup, with the announcement that it has chosen the plant at Montgomery, Alabama to build the Santa Cruz, alongside the compact Santa Fe utility vehicle that will share some of its components, starting in 2021.
The Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama (HMMA) manufacturing complex also currently builds the Elantra and Sonata sedans, and will undergo a $410 million US expansion to expand space in stamping, welding and parts areas. The expansion will also add 200 direct jobs and an expected 1,000 jobs at suppliers and logistics companies that feed the facility.
“Bringing the Santa Cruz to HMMA demonstrates that Hyundai Motor Company is confident our more than 3,000 Team Members are ready to build a quality crossover for the U.S. market,” said Byungjin Jin, president and CEO, Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama.
Hyundai has not referred to Santa Cruz as a pickup, as dictated by the bodystyle, but rather a utility vehicle or a crossover, in a manner similar to Honda did leading up to the launch of the Ridgeline, which will likely be the Santa Cruz’s main competition. The vehicle was shown in concept form at the 2015 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, and the company has not yet shown an updated prototype leading up to production.
The company is aiming for buyers who desire all the attributes of a compact utility, without the traditional shape and restrictions of the full-body style. It says it is creating a new segment for Millennials who seek a combination of capability and utility. Again, this explanation seems to have come directly from the Honda Ridgeline press materials of 15 years ago.
Hyundai has stated its intent to make the production version different from the concept, and we don’t doubt it. The car-based concept was an extended-cab pickup, with two rear-hinged panels to allow entry to a tight back seat. The production will have to go with two full traditionally-hinged doors, making it a crew-cab and likely making it bigger than the smallish concept (which even with its small cabin still added just a small bed).
Otherwise, not much at all is known about the future vehicle, with likely more information coming at 2020 auto shows ahead of full launch materials in 2021.