Hyundai will invest $410 million to reconfigure its Montgomery, Ala., factory to build the Santa Cruz compact pickup truck.
The South Korean automaker said the truck – really a cross between an SUV and a pickup – is aimed at the “urban adventurer.”
Those are buyers who need a small vehicle during the week but can use a truck-like vehicle for weekend activities.
The Santa Cruz looks a touch like a modern Chevrolet El Camino. However, like today’s SUVs, it sits much higher off the ground. It has two full-size doors and two small, rear-hinged doors. It features a section that telescopes from the rear. That increases the size of the cargo bed to almost that of a midsize pickup truck.
“It’s the crossover that creates a whole new segment that successfully combines capability and utility to meet the unspoken needs of a new generation of buyers, especially Millennials,” Hyundai said in a statement Wednesday.
The truck-crossover mashup also allows Hyundai to offer a twist on the truck market without competing with Ford, Chevrolet and Ram, which dominate the segment.
Hyundai introduced the Santa Cruz as a concept vehicle at the 2015 North American International Auto Show in Detroit without committing to producing the vehicle. The automaker said two years ago that it would make the vehicle, but did not commit to a timetable.
Production will now start sometime in 2021. That allows time to complete the factory expansion. Hyundai is adding space in the stamping, welding and parts processing areas to fit Santa Cruz production. It will add about 200 workers. Employment at local suppliers and logistics companies who support the factory will add about 1,000 people, Hyundai said.
“Bringing the Santa Cruz to HMMA demonstrates that Hyundai Motor Co. is confident our more than 3,000 team members are ready to build a quality crossover for the U.S. market,” said Byungjin Jin, chief executive of Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama.
Building the vehicle in the U.S. allows Hyundai to avoid a 25 percent tariff on imported trucks.
Hyundai grew rapidly by selling Elantra and Sonata sedan. But now it is adjusting to a shift in consumer preferences by adding crossovers and SUVs. Vehicles classified as light trucks, including pickups, SUVs and crossovers, account for 70 percent of U.S. auto sales.