The Hyundai Santa Cruz Concept has earned a ton of praises after it was unveiled in Detroit almost three years ago. Oddly, it took a while before the company came to realize its importance in boosting the US sales which as of late, have not been quite so impressive.
It can be recalled that Michael J. O’Brien, Hyundai Motor senior executive, has told Reuters before about the company’s plan of launching a new pickup truck in the US. It was also mentioned then that the main issue was on how to increase the production --- especially for the Tucson which often runs short of supply.
Initial reports also indicate that the Hyundai Kona, which is slated to launch in US early next year will come from South Korea. Then there is Dave Zuchowski, former Hyundai Motor America CEO, who said earlier this year that new SUVs including the Santa Cruz project have all received the go-signal from its corporate headquarters. It was confirmed by Hyundai later on that the Santa Cruz concept has indeed been given the notice to proceed and is now aimed directly for the US market.
Moving on to the present, the latest word came earlier this week from South Korea’s Seoul Economic Daily via Reuters, stating that that Hyundai could build its utility vehicles in the US beginning 2021. That is to say, both the Tucson and Kona crossover SUVs could also be manufactured at the existing manufacturing facility in Alabama.
The Alabama plant is where the Sonata and Elantra sedans are being made along with the Santa Fe SUV. According to Seoul Economic Daily, Hyundai’s anonymous spokesperson has told Reuters that they have been considering all the possibilities. Also according to the same source, Hyundai’s Alabama factory currently has the capacity of building 380,000 to 450,000 vehicles per year. If the two crossovers and new pickup will be made in the US, they might have to consider upgrading the manufacturing plant in Alabama as well. Hyundai Motors however did not confirm if it had any plans at all to expand the factory’s current capacity.
The company has suffered a significant sales drop in the US just this October. In fact, the 15% decrease is Hyundai’s biggest downfall so far. Sharing the same facility in building the new Tucson and the supposed new pickup is sensible enough given that the pickup truck has already been set to use the same architecture as the Tucson.
As for Hyundai’s Kona, there is no better way to take advantage of the increasing demand for small crossovers than by making them in the US instead of importing them all the way from South Korea. All in all, it is too early to tell where this is going but if all that is said here prove to be real, a car-based pickup like the Santa Cruz concept will surely be worth the wait.