Hyundai Santa Cruz Pickup Truck May Be Body-on-Frame

The Hyundai Santa Cruz car-based truck is coming soon though we first saw the concept back in 2015. Sources say 2021, but that might mean later in 2020 as a 2021 model. We can only hope as if it becomes a decent seller it might prompt other manufacturers to create similar car-trucks or “Utes” as they’re known in Australia. Oh wait, it sounds like Kia will be doing a version of the Santa Cruz too.

But even though we thought the Santa Cruz would be built on a car platform, it sounds like that’s not the case anymore. Yes, the word now is that Kia will be helping to develop the body-on-frame Ute platform for the Santa Cruz. What do Hyundai and Kia know that the rest of the automotive world doesn’t?

Hyundai Santa Cruz Concept
Hyundai Santa Cruz Concept | Hyundai

Trucks, SUVs, and crossovers are being parsed every which way. In America, it is no longer “car manufacturing” it’s “truck manufacturing”. So it makes sense that if every niche within the truck umbrella is being exploited, then why not the segment of Ford Ranchero/Chevy El Camino car-truck Utes?

Anecdotally, it seemed that the Santa Cruz concept that was first shown at the 2015 Detroit Auto Show was received quite well. Obviously, it must have been for Hyundai to allocate resources to develop a body-on-frame vehicle. All of their models to this point are unibody platforms. Splitting development with sister company Kia means both are less invested in the new segment, so they each need to amortize costs over half of the development dollars.

Hyundai Santa Cruz Concept Rear
Hyundai Santa Cruz Concept Rear | Hyundai

“We’ve got past the first hurdle of what it needs to look like, but it needs to be functional as well,” Hyundai Australia CEO John Kett told Which Car. “That’s the important part.”

The Santa Cruz development will reportedly use a ladder frame similar to what underpins a Ford Ranger or Toyota Tacoma. That leads to the question if this is just a trial run towards a real mid-size truck? Exactly.

Hyundai Santa Cruz Concept Side
Hyundai Santa Cruz Concept Side | Hyundai

“We’re looking at a range,” Kett told WhichCar. “When you cut up the ute market, you split it up between 4×4, 4×2, who owns 4×2, and what powertrain goes with that internally, and then 4×4 crew cab and so on.” What he’s saying is that if Hyundai/Kia is spending development dollars to create a body-on-frame Santa Cruz platform, what else can they make from that investment?

Indonesia looks like the most likely location for assembly of the Ute, but Hyundai has already said that if there is a market in America for the Santa Cruz, it has to be manufactured in the US.  In this way it avoids the Chicken Tax tariff applied to imported trucks and commercial vans.

Hyundai Santa Cruz Concept Grille
Hyundai Santa Cruz Concept Grille | Hyundai

Hyundai currently does manufacturing in its Montgomery, Alabama, plant and has an engineering center in Michigan, plus a proving grounds in California. But, there are a number of idle plants around the country Hyundai could acquire to ramp up any production the Alabama plant couldn’t absorb.

Hyundai Santa Cruz Concept Headlight
Hyundai Santa Cruz Concept Headlight | Hyundai

You would expect that the production version of the Santa Cruz would look different than the concept, and Hyundai has confirmed that. Styling strategy is important in a new segment that is based on trucks. 

While we keep hearing production will start in 2021, we hope that Hyundai and Kia can push that date up.