Santa Cruz interests Hyundai NZ boss

Hyundai has announced a traydeck … and though it's not quite like a one-tonne ute, Hyundai NZ wouldn't say no.


THAT the Hyundai Santa Cruz doesn’t seem to conform to Kiwi ute buyer preference wouldn’t keep the local distributor from considering it if given the chance.

This from Hyundai New Zealand boss Andy Sinclair, in reaction to reports that the traydeck first revealed by the Koreans two years ago in concept form will go into production – and that it is only expected to be sold in North America.

Although Hyundai has disclosed that the production Santa Cruz will be based off the same platform as the Sante Fe, New Zealand’s most popular sub-$100k large sports utility wagon, there’s also thought that it will be more car than truck in look and all-round driving dynamic.

Conceivably, that makes it more like a Holden Commodore ute – which has sold poorly - than a Colorado, the country’s fourth best-selling one-tonner. Would that kind of vehicle be useful to Hyundai NZ?

Surprisingly, yes, Sinclair says: “I’d need to see it, touch and be close to it to make that call … but it would be pretty hard for me to turn down any sort of ute.

“Although it’s easy to suggest that it doesn’t conform to what we see as a typical Kiwi ute, that’s not to say it wouldn’t create a new niche or that there wouldn’t be a market for it.

“You don’t know until you see it … bgut my opinion is that it is always customer choice. They ultimately decide.

“But, anyway, if it was ultimately to become available then perhaps we would run some customer days and at least get some feedback.”

Of course, that’s not to say that Santa Cruz is the only ute Hyundai is looking at putting out there. Rumours persist that Seoul head office is giving close consideration to creating another vehicle whose design would be much closer to the heavy duty, workhorse/play format we admire so much.

Sinclair says he cannot add any official comment in respect to that talk.

“There is speculation that there may be a a more Kiwi-centric ute in the pipeline, but I cannot confirm that as such. I can only confirm that there is speculation.”

Confirmation that the Santa Cruz concept has been greenlighted for development came in a short statement out of Hyundai North America last week.

Aside from saying the model was a go, the statement otherwise only said it was solely for North America.

The official comment came after news agency Reuters reported that a top US executive for Hyundai said the model would appear, probably in 2020.

Meantime, Korea’s No.1 has also shown off its next-generation hydrogen fuel-cell-powered SUV that will have a driving range of 800km, more than 200km more than the model it replaces.

The high-riding green machine – which is yet to be named, so for now answers to FE (its development designation) – will go into production early next year.

Australian media say Hyundai Motor Company Australia has agreed to supply the ACT government with 20 examples of the new hydrogen SUV in late 2018 as part of a windfarm-based Green project.

There is currently one ix35 Fuel Cell in Australia that Hyundai uses to promote its tech, and there is one hydrogen refuelling station in Australia based at HMCA’s headquarters in Sydney.

The FE uses Hyundai’s fourth-generation fuel-cell technology and was developed according to four key pillars - efficiency, performance (maximum output), durability and tank storage density, according to the car-maker.

Engineers have made tweaks to the fuel-cell system in a bid to improve fuel-cell performance and reduce hydrogen consumption, ensuring the new model has an efficiency level of 60 percent.

The major changes to the system have also resulted in a significant increase in driving range, which is now up to about 800km on a single charge according to European testing standards.

Power is up by 20 per cent compared with the model it replaces, with 120kW on offer, while “highly durable catalyst technology” has meant the new SUV has greater longevity than the old one.