How did we get here? Go behind the scenes of the development of the Hyundai Santa Cruz
The story of the Hyundai Santa Cruz goes back at least eight years. It was seven years ago this January that the Santa Cruz Concept was launched at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS). At the time, a representative from Hyundai told PickupTrucks.com that it would "likely take at least three or four years" to bring the truck to market in the U.S., but that it would only happen if "gauged interest is strong and positive".
The good news is that reaction was positive. Now, nearly a decade after that debut the 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz is a reality. What took so long? Hyundai broke it down this week.
The Santa Cruz was always meant to be a compact truck. The Santa Cruz Concept was a little longer than a Hyundai Tucson and today the 2021 Tucson is slightly shorter than the 2022 Santa Cruz.
Hyundai noted during a Q&A session today that one of the main drivers for the truck was the public's desire to have a truck that was more fuel efficient.
The third generation of the Hyundai Tucson debuted in 2015. Its fourth generation comes to market this month as a 2021 model. In the years between, alternative fuels development went from something like, "Oh look! A Prius!" to "Audi is adding its fourth and fifth new EVs for the U.S. by the end of 2021". Today, pretty every automaker has committed to a clean emissions future, which has necessitated the innovation of new platforms and new propulsion strategies.
It wouldn't make good business sense to debut a new vehicle on an outdated platform. It also helps to streamline the manufacturing process if many products can share a production line using the same architecture. So, it was always going to be years down the road.
Hyundai's design team in California took the lead with the Santa Cruz design. Unlike some concepts that come into reality, the aesthetic of the Santa Cruz wasn't changed from spicy cinnamon into a bland vanilla to make it appeal to the masses. Hyundai kept it unique, if not a little weird, and completely unlike anything on the market today.
According to the design team, the Santa Cruz was never going to share a grille with the Palisade. While the look of the Palisade is brash, bold, and upright, the team didn't feel that it was right to transfer that look over to the Santa Cruz. The truck has ended up with a variation of the Tucson's grille, but given the muscular aesthetic of the truck, it plays differently on the forthcoming model.
Early in the design process, a Hyundai employee described the vehicle's target audience as the folks who park on the side of the road to go surfing, saying that they go from their home, down the highway, to the beach, and need something they can throw gear and boards in that also won't crowd the driveway at home and parallel parks easily.
It was with those design priorities that the 2022 Santa Cruz came to life.