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.