2016 Detroit Motor Show: Hyundai Santa Cruz ute confirmed, says US boss

2015 Hyundai Santa Cruz concept

Hyundai Ute ready to go, says US boss, and is high on Hyundai Australia’s wish-list

THE Hyundai Santa Cruz ute has been confirmed for production. Hyundai US boss David Zuchowski told Wheels that it’s not a matter of if, but when, for the lifestyle concept vehicle ute shown at last year’s Detroit motor show to arrive in showrooms.

While not yet given the official green-light from company headquarters, when asked at a press function following today’s 2016 Detroit Motor Show, Hyundai’s US boss told Wheels: "It hasn’t been officially announced yet. Our timing is not crossing our fingers and waiting for approval, it's trying to figure out when we’re going to announce it.”

Santa Cruz2

Zuchowski also said that public, official confirmation was in the hands of the company’s global headquarters in South Korea, but that the green light had been given internally to the funky Hyundai. "We’re waiting more for an announcement than we are for an approval, right? So HMC is going to dictate [when that happens] – we feel really good about it.”

That doesn’t mean that Hyundai Australia will necessarily take the Santa Cruz, despite its then-CEO, John Elsworth, telling Wheels at the 2015 Detroit show that the Hyundai presented a solid growth opportunity. Elsworth, who left the company last November, described the Santa Cruz as a lifestyle vehicle that could pick up from the Ford Falcon and Holden Commodore-based utes once local production ended by 2017.

Similar to the Falcon and Commodore utes, the Santa Cruz will be based on a passenger car platform, and not a ladder-frame chassis such as the strong-selling Toyota Hilux and Ford Ranger.

Sant Cruz3

"Big utes aren't for everybody, and with Holden and Ford not offering that sort of vehicle in the future [with the conclusion of Australian manufacturing], there's a gap there in the market," Elsworth said.

"And I think you'll find there's a blending of crossovers and SUVs and light commercials and this does fill that gap."

The big question for the Australian market is whether the Santa Cruz is produced in right-hand drive, and even then, exchange rates from Hyundai’s various global facilities may hinder its progress south.

Hyundai Australia spokesman Bill Thomas did not confirm Zuchowski’s comments, but suggested that if the vehicle was given the official nod, it would be a welcome addition to the local line-up.

"If [that's the case, and] it's a production vehicle [then] it's about where it can be produced and if it can be produced in right-hand drive. If the business case has sufficient numbers … we’d look at it [for Australia]."

Sign up here to receive the latest round-up of Wheels news, reviews and video highlights straight to your inbox each week.

Want free access to 5 years of Wheels archive content? Sign up now!