Ever since Hyundai took the wraps off the Santa Cruz concept nearly a year ago, we’ve been closely watching to see if the Korean automaker would put it into production. The signs have been looking good, but this could be our clearest indication yet. According to the company’s North American product planning chief, the road ahead is clear for the compact pickup.
“We’re very anxious to do something with the idea,” Mike O’Brien told AutoGuide. “The engineering feasibility work has been done,” and 18 months of preparation have already gone into laying out the business case. Now all it needs is the green light from the head office.
Hyundai unveiled the Santa Cruz concept – codenamed HCD-15 – at the 2015 Detroit Auto Show. The design calls for a compact pickup crossover, similar in concept to the Honda Ridgeline, but smaller. It would be targeted towards young customers interested in outdoor activities who don’t want to track the elements inside their vehicle along with their mountain bikes, kayaks, surfboards, and snowboards.
If approved, the Santa Cruz would likely share its underpinnings with the Tucson crossover. Hyundai sells a good 50,000 Tucsons each year in the US, and the Santa Cruz is estimated to match (if not exceed) that number, helping Hyundai double its sales based on the same platform. The Santa Cruz is also tipped to be Hyundai’s first diesel model in America. “The diesel is the most promising because of the fuel economy it delivers,” said O’Brien. “It best matches in our research of what these customers are looking for… Outstanding fuel economy, good torque and good driveability.”