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To Hyundai's credit, it acknowledges this segment's historical limitations, stating in the official press release,
"Some of the industry's past attempts to blend truck-bed flexibility with passenger-car attributes were limited because they didn't deliver the practical benefits the customer expected. Most tried to straddle the line by attracting traditional truck buyers with compromised products at a similar price point, failing to deliver any differentiating benefits. Santa Cruz, by design, isn't an alternative to a truck, so towing, payload and ground clearance were not primary goals. Rather, Santa Cruz is intended to attract CUV and sedan buyers who are seeking greater utility, without the compromises that traditional trucks often require."
So... the plan is to woo customers with clever engineering and an un-compromised CUV-like driving experience. If The Santa Cruz is starting to sound like the Honda Ridgeline to you, it's because it does.
Even the Ridgeline has struggled to gain traction in the land of half-ton F-150s and Silverados, with sales numbers dropping significantly since launch. Its redesign for the 2017 model year ups the ante and doubles down on the crossover truck segment. If Hyundai decides to add the Santa Cruz to its lineup, it has to ask the question, can the market sustain two cleverly engineered crossovers with miniature truck beds? That will probably depend on how well Hyundai can weigh the cost analysis in its favor. The Ridgeline lost many shoppers to its $30k-plus price tag, with many would-be buyers moving to the half-ton alternatives when they realized they could get more brawn for their money. Hyundai has built its reputation on value and traditionally undercuts the segment it wants to break into, as demonstrated by the Genesis sedan and Coupe.
Cheap gas and well-designed mainstream trucks make the crossover truck segment a hard sell in the current market, but Honda is hoping its dues have been paid and a fresh start will launch its pickup ambitions full swing into the American market. Hyundai has the difficult decision of bringing its Santa Cruz concept to a tough market to crack and possibly build some reputation in the same way Honda was able to. Hyundai admits it's not going after pickup truck buyers, but instead crossover and sedan buyers who want more utility.
As a manufacturer, it is no stranger to taking risks on radical vehicles, such as the Veloster which had a moderate sales success; and it needs to expand its SUV/crossover lineup to remain relevant in the modern auto market. Will it take the risk and bring the Santa Cruz to market with so many tough variables looming? Or will it only see the headwinds and concentrate its resources on a more conventional vehicle, one more likely to have real-world broad market appeal?