Hyundai turning to trucks to pick up sluggish U.S. sales

August 23, 2017

Get ready for a Hyundai pickup truck.

That’s the word according to Hyundai’s US VP of corporate and product planning, Michael J. O’Brien. Speaking to Reuters, he confirmed that a small pickup is now officially greenlit for development.

While sales of Hyundai’s sedans are down as much as 30 percent so far in 2017, the overall market for crossover SUVs and pickup trucks of all sizes remains strong. That’s the rationale behind a larger trend for Hyundai, which is also set to go all-in on crossover SUVs in the coming years.

While there is no name for the pending pickup truck, it will be similar in nature to the Santa Cruz concept truck that Hyundai displayed to rave reviews in 2015. While Hyundai has never produced a pickup truck—a segment more clearly defined by brand loyalties than any other—it’s unlikely to plunge into the hyper-competitive full-sized category any time soon.

The new pickup will be smaller than a full-sized pickup, and likely smaller than even the Chevrolet Colorado and Toyota Tacoma. In other words Hyundai, is going after city dwellers needing a little extra cargo room and utility, rather than the traditional suburban and rural truck owners that demand traditional truck features like towing capacity and increased ground clearance.

Others have successfully cracked the truck market in the past by attempting a similar alternate strategy. Honda, for example, valued a more user-friendly, car-like driving experience over headline-grabbing utility when it developed the Ridgeline pickup. The Subaru Baja was equal parts sedan and pickup, and of course the famed Chevrolet El Camino was noted for being part car, part truck.

There’s no word yet on when to expect the Santa Cruz-like truck to join the revitalized Hyundai lineup on dealership lots.

-- by Aaron Miller

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