Hyundai took many by surprise in 2015 at Detroit’s North American International Auto Show by revealing a unique concept vehicle: the Santa Cruz pickup, an obvious response to the Honda Ridgeline, featured out-of-the-box styling and was all the more remarkable for having come from the South Korean automaker.
A year later reports were declaring that it would go to production for a 2017 launch. But here we are, three years after its first showing, and no Santa Cruz in sight. What gives? In a recent interview with Motor Trend, Brian Smith, head of operations for Hyundai U.S., stated that the Santa Cruz remained an active, highly valued project within the walls of Hyundai HQ.
However, the R&D department at the automaker is currently occupied with other projects higher on the company’s priority list. This explains what could turn out to be a five- or six-year lag between the initial concept unveiling and when the first production rubber hits the road.
Normally, this kind of delay spells trouble for the styling and original design elements that made the concept so intriguing. New people, new strategies, new directions can all play a hand in altering the model’s looks. Certainly Hyundai’s design signature has evolved since 2015. On the other hand, the company’s new head of design, Luc Donckerwolke, recently mentioned that the automaker would move away from trying to create a uniform look across its roster.
There may be yet be room for the Santa Cruz to retain its individuality and make it to production in relatively intact form.
We also have no actual confirmation that the Santa Cruz name will survive to the production stage, although if we had to bet, we’d say it will.
Motor Trend reports that the Santa Cruz should be ready to go in 2020 as a 2021 model-year vehicle. Other than the Ridgeline, its main rival could well be the new Volkswagen Atlas Tanoak that made a splash as a concept in New York this past March. The Chevrolet Colorado (GMC Canyon), the Toyota Tacoma and even the future Ford Ranger could also be part of the conversation, but while their styling is somewhat similar to what we’ve seen of the Santa Cruz, their architecture is different.