Hyundai is still committed to the Santa Cruz pickup

Hyundai Santa Cruz Crossover Truck Concept front 3/4

Hyundai introduced the Santa Cruz pickup concept at the 2015 North American International Auto Show to almost universal praise, particularly from Hyundai dealers who, almost five years later, still don't have a pickup truck to sell as utility vehicles dominate the market for passenger vehicles. 

Now, in remarks with Bloomberg, Hyundai's American unit's head of product, corporate, and digital planning, Mike O'Brien, promised that gap in the automaker's portfolio will soon be filled with an American-built truck targeted at folks who aren't traditional pickup buyers.

“It’ll be a very versatile vehicle... that has the promise of creating a whole new class of buyers,” O'Brien told Bloomberg.

It's a little bit odd that Hyundai wants to sell pickups to folks who haven't previously considered one. Especially when the brand isn't yet serving the huge existing market of traditional pickup buyers—but the Korean brand has to start somewhere. Honda has followed a similar strategy with its unibody Ridgeline pickup.

Hyundai won't say when it will roll out a pickup for the American market, but O'Brien did say that it will be assembled in the U.S., for a couple of different reasons. To begin with, the half-century old “chicken tax”, which adds a 25 percent tariff to imported small trucks, is still very much in effect. Also, President Trump has jawboned companies who sell goods in America but don't produce them here.

To avoid political controversy, “It would have to be made in North America,” O'Brien said, specifically noting that automakers who make vehicles in Mexico have been criticized by the U.S. president.

Making the Santa Cruz, or whatever pickup it decides to produce, in America shouldn’t be too much of a challenge. Hyundai currently produces Elantra and Sonata sedans in Alabama at a factory with a capacity of up to 400,000 units annually, and its Kia affiliate is currently making over 300,000 Tellurides, Sorentos, and Optimas a year in Georgia.