Is the time finally right for a Hyundai pickup?

The Hyundai Santa Cruz concept debuted at the 2015 Detroit auto show. A new report suggests that it could become a reality — in some form, at least — in the not-too-distant future.

Concept cars come and go, often leaving nary a trace behind them, but the Hyundai Santa Cruz — a pickup truck styling exercise that debuted at the 2015 Detroit auto show — seems to have been simmering on the back burner all along.

According to a report at Automotive News, the Korean automaker is poised to launch a pickup truck in the United States; to avoid importation tariffs, it would almost certainly need to be built here as well. Hyundai’s Michael O’Brien believes that such a vehicle would create “a whole new class of buyers” for the brand. Still, the automaker is cagey about actually confirming that such a vehicle is on the way — despite earlier reports that a pickup truck had been greenlit.

This isn’t exactly surprising. It took Hyundai a long time to bring out a fully realized modern midsize crossover/SUV, but when the Palisade did arrive, we were suitably impressed. (In fact, even though the Santa Cruz teased a compact pickup for urban-dwelling millennials, we suspect the larger Palisade would form the starting point for an eventual production truck.) Point is, Hyundai seems to be willing to take the time to do things right, which is important when you’re dealing with a crowd as unforgiving as pickup buyers.

It helps that Hyundai won’t exactly be reinventing the wheel here. Honda has already proved how this can work with the Ridgeline, which is built on the same platform as the Pilot. Volkswagen has also toyed with the idea of a crossover-based pickup for the US market; that truck would likely share underpinnings with the VW Atlas crossover.

The only trouble with these sorts of comfortable, economical crossovers-with-beds is that, just like the station wagon, though they may be perfectly rational on paper, people don’t necessarily make 100 percent rational automotive purchase decisions. As we’ve said about the Ridgeline, unibody crossover-based pickups are well-suited for how many people actually use their trucks, but they’re often at odds with what people are looking for when they go to buy a pickup. It’s not exactly selling in Ford F-150/Ram 1500/Chevrolet Silverado numbers (though to be fair, Honda didn’t expect it to).

So while O’Brien’s statement about a Hyundai pickup bringing in a “new class of buyers” may hold true, that class will inevitably be a tiny fraction of the size of the full-size body-and-frame pickup market.

So what? For those who have a realistic understanding of what they want out of a truck, crunched the numbers and realized that a full-size option is a little too full-sized for them, another manageable, economical pickup option will be welcome news. And if it’s as good as the Palisade, it will give the Ridgeline a run for its money.


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