Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama this week began production of the company’s first pickup truck, the Santa Cruz.
Pickup trucks are hot and Hyundai believes the 2022 Santa Cruz can pick up a piece of the critical segment, which is dominated by Chevrolet, GMC, Ford and Ram.
Toyota, Honda and Nissan have small shares as well but have never been able to crack the dominance of the Detroit-based brands, which are continuing develop new models with new powertrains and Hyundai initially is likely to wind up in a fight with its Japanese rivals for buyers.
Production of the Santa Cruz, which will begin arriving in U.S. dealerships later this summer, began earlier this week at HMMA plant in Montgomery, Alabama, where the South Korean automaker also builds the Sonata and Elantra sedans and Santa Fe and Tucson SUVs. It is the first time Hyundai’s plant in Montgomery plant as produced five distinct vehicles at once.
Hyundai bringing out unique vehicle
“Santa Cruz, with its bold styling, breaks open an all-new segment territory, both for Hyundai and the industry,” said Jose Munoz, president and CEO of Hyundai Motor North America. Since its debut, the Santa Cruz has been joined in the compact pickup segment by the all-new Ford Maverick.
“The open-bed flexibility coupled with closed-cabin security meets the changing everyday needs of its adventure-oriented buyers, while powerful and efficient engines and superb maneuverability ensure it is a pleasure to drive in urban or off-road environments. Our customers will wonder just how they managed before owning one,” Munoz added.
Hyundai executives said the Santa Cruz straddles the SUV and truck segments with an open bed area for hauling, which also includes a lockable tonneau cover and hidden bed storage for diverse gear-carrying flexibility.
Alabama plant ready to go
Adding a fifth vehicle is no easy feat. The company expanded the plant to support adding the Santa Cruz to plant’s product mix. The update permits Hyundai to tweak the plant’s production schedule to keep it in line with consumer demand.
That kind of flexibility is going to be important as sales continue to rebound in the wake of the pandemic. Hyundai’s sales have been going gangbusters in 2021, including — surprisingly — the two sedans it builds there. Sonata sales wer up 130% in May and are up 78% through the first five months of the year.Meanwhile, the Elantra enjoyed a 147% jump last month and is up 45% year to date. That’s not say the SUVs aren’t performing well. The Santa Fe was up 35% in May and 48% through May. The Tucson was the “laggard” of the group with a 21% rise last month, and it’s boasting a 44% increase for 2021.