• Image Credit: Hyundai

Hyundai Santa Cruz Crossover Truck Concept

According to Mark Dipko, director, corporate planning, Hyundai Motor America, "The Santa Cruz crossover truck concept meets the unspoken needs of a growing Millennial lifestyle we call 'Urban Adventurers'. This new crossover allows them all the expandable utility they need throughout their active week, from work-life professionalism, to social interests, to a whole variety of outdoor pursuits, without the typical compromises they have come to expect from the industry's current product offerings."

MORPHING LIFESTYLE DEMANDS Hyundai research revealed that not everyone who wants an open-bed vehicle is willing to accept the tradeoffs that come with it. As evidence of this, industry pickup truck share is down over five percent in the last 10 years, with the biggest shift among young adults, reflecting a need for something that more closely matches these morphing lifestyles. In the past, small trucks accounted for half of pickup sales, and they were particularly popular with younger buyers. Today, that same young truck market is almost non-existent, and millennials under 30 represent just seven percent of all pickup purchases. Women, who buy more than half of all CUVs sold, now account for only 10 percent of pickup sales. Santa Cruz is intended to meet the customer needs that the current truck product offering is simply not fulfilling.

Santa Cruz is for the growing population who sees and pursues the world differently, those who want all the traditional attributes of a small CUV, but need the day-to-day versatility of an open bed. It's the crossover truck that meets the unspoken needs of Urban Adventurers.
  • Image Credit: Hyundai

Hyundai Santa Cruz Crossover Truck Concept

INNOVATIVE TAILGATE EXTENSION

Sometimes, there are those needs that call for even more cargo room; that's why Santa Cruz offers an innovative tailgate extension that allows the bed length to be expanded whenever those "just in case" moments arise. The extension is perfect for everything from an epic mountain bike trip to bringing home an antique chest or classic motorcycle that's ripe for restoration. When fully extended, Santa Cruz's bed length is similar to a mid-size pickup, providing the ability to carry much more than its compact footprint would suggest, yet only when needed. Santa Cruz was designed to accommodate whatever the Urban Adventurer's lifestyle calls for, whether expected or unexpected.

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.
  • Image Credit: Hyundai

Hyundai Santa Cruz Crossover Truck Concept

URBAN ADVENTURERS

Modern urbanization is impacting the market in a broad way, and this trend is especially strong with young adults, who face tighter parking on streets and parking garages, and increasing congestion overall. These trends are not confined to one specific region of the U.S.; they're happening in urban hubs everywhere. These "Urban Adventurers" have a different mindset, being very active both socially, and in their communities, bringing a pioneering spirit to make their neighborhoods a better place to live and work.

So whether it's loading up friends and firewood for a bonfire at the beach, coaching the youth soccer team, volunteering for a community restoration project, or a quick drop-off at the local recycling center, they need a vehicle versatile enough to accommodate both passengers and gear, while being efficient enough to fit into their unique urban lifestyle.
  • Image Credit: Hyundai

Hyundai Santa Cruz Crossover Truck Concept

The concept is purposefully compact, and although it has four doors and seating for five, its overall footprint is similar to a small CUV. These dimensions make it ideal for navigating the urban jungle or a tight parking spot that most pickup drivers often have to pass by. It offers typical CUV driving character, but with a versatile cargo bed that provides separated storage for all they want to bring along, whether it's a trip to the recycling center, a surf or paddleboard session, or a couple of mountain bikes for the trails. Whatever the day's activity might bring -- all that dirty, sweaty, wet, sandy, bulky gear remains in the back of the truck, cleanly separated from the passenger compartment.

During the work week, gear for that early morning hike or after-work hockey game stays securely locked in the back, under an integrated, rigid tonneau cover that conveniently retracts when not needed. It not only keeps items safe and out of sight, it also keeps the interior clean and fresh. Santa Cruz is the perfect vehicle for those that want the attributes of a CUV, but still have dirty stuff that belongs "in the back."

In a recent interview with Australian outlet WhichCar, Hyundai Australia CEO John Kett told the publication that the coming pickup must satisfy the utilitarian needs of ute buyers down under — "ute" being what Aussies call pickups. “What’s clear to us," Kett said, "is that if we’re going to bring a ute out, it had better be a ute." And that, according to the report, means "a full range of one-ton ute-based commercial vehicles" that are "based on a ladder-frame chassis."

The CEO referred to permutations in any truck market, such as cab configurations, 4x4 and 4x2 drivetrains, and bed options like chassis cabs, as the matrix local product planners are honing for a "pickup model mix." Kia has gone in on development costs, which will mean even more choice for buyers in the applicable markets.

With five years of Hyundai pickup talk in at least three different countries behind us, we're faced with all kinds of loose threads we can't know how to stitch up properly. The picture appears to point to different trucks for different markets; regions like Australia and Southeast Asia will get a body-on-frame work truck to compete with stalwarts like the Ford Ranger, Toyota Hilux and Isuzu D-Max, the U.S. will get a unibody, likely Tucson-based, leisure-market pickup.

That's our suspicion since Hyundai's U.S. arm has only ever talked about a unibody crew cab here, explaining the reasons for that choice in detail. CarBuzz spoke to Hyundai vice president of product Mike O'Brien at the Detroit Auto Show this year. O'Brien told the outlet a BOF pickup wasn't necessary in the U.S. because "Most customers are not wrapped up on whether things have a frame or not a frame. So the question is how do you give someone an open bed utility in a new way?"

O'Brien put space between Hyundai's coming offering and the truck it gets compared to, the unibody Honda Ridgeline, explaining, "The Ridgeline doesn't really serve people who are looking for something more garage friendly and more affordable. Think about an urban lifestyle, those who will never use a gooseneck trailer, never haul a 10,000-pound trailer." After that, he described the same buyer to CarBuzz that he would describe to Automotive News in July this year: "[City]-dwelling millennials who can’t fit full-size pickups in tighter parking spots," with "just the right size bed space for younger buyers" who don't want to throw their wet or muddy weekend adventure gear in a back seat. That's the four-door, five-seater we've heard about.

The truck O'Brien describes has nothing to do with a work-grade commercial one-ton. More circumstantial evidence? In May 2017, Hyundai Australia COO Scott Grant told CarAdvice that the U.S.-bound "Santa Cruz is a different proposition, we don’t have any interest for it, even if it happens at all, and in right-hand drive. We’re focusing on proper 4x4 and 4x2 truck." Kia Australia said similar things in July.

The Hyundai pickup is expected to debut next year, we should know more then. Australian reports put the hardcore ladder-frame truck due after 2021, perhaps as late as 2023. A Hyundai trademark filing in New Zealand has some suspecting the pickup — in one of its flavors — could be called Pavise.

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