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Case strengthens for Hyundai dual-cab ute

In development: The Hyundai pick-up will be a separate development from production version of the SUV-based Santa Cruz concept (left).

Hyundai admits Asian-built pick-up is being assessed, but nothing due before 2022

Hyundai logo16 Jun 2017

By TIM ROBSON in Seoul

EVERYONE likes the idea, but it’s still a while away. That’s the message from senior Hyundai Motor Company (HMC) figures on the fate of a commercial pick-up program that would form the basis of Hyundai’s first dual-cab ute.

A pick-up product has been the subject of discussion at Hyundai for the better part of seven years, but discussions with senior officials at the launch of the Kona small SUV in South Korea this week reveals that plans may finally be moving forward.

The strongest affirmation that the program is under way comes from Hyundai director of Asia Pacific, Africa and Middle East group Bang Sun Jeong who discussed the ute with Australian journalists at the Kona launch in Seoul this week.

Mr Jeong said the company is definitely assessing a pick-up program, and is in the process of deciding what country will manufacture it.

“It would not come out of Korea,” he said. “More like Thailand or Indonesia.”

Mr Jeong, whose department is responsible for the sale of more than a million units per year, acknowledged that the ideology behind a pick-up is something that is not a part of Hyundai’s largest – and home – market, with Korean consumers opting for either a passenger vehicle or a commercial vehicle.

“Here (in Korea), customers will have a sedan, or they will have a small LCV (light-commercial vehicle),” he said, “but not a combination of both.”

The Asia Pacific, Africa and Middle East markets contribute almost a quarter of total sales to the company’s bottom line, and Mr Jeong acknowledged that the Middle East and Africa, in particular, are also asking for the ute.

However, Hyundai head of design Luc Donckerwolke played a straight bat on any potential design programs for the car.

“From a pure design point of view, yes, we would love to design it, but there has to be a business case behind it,” he said, also speaking at the Kona launch.

“First we will have to see what kind of customer it is for, and what the volume is and what the segment would be.”

Hyundai Motor Company Australia (HMCA) chief operating officer Scott Grant was far more bullish about the prospect.

“We’ve been talking about it for a number of years, and you’d be familiar with that,” he said via video link from HMCA’s head office in Sydney. “The response from HMC for a number of years has been ‘yes, thank you very much. We hear what you're saying’, and then the program is put it on the shelf.

“More recently, in the last maybe 18 months or so, it’s moved to ‘yes, we hear what you're saying, and other markets have got the same requirement we're studying’. That's a different signal.”

Mr Grant said that HMC has committed to developing a pick-up, but specifics around timing were scarce.

“The details around exactly when and where it would be produced were yet to be determined, but I think we're on a journey,” he said. “I don't have all the information, but I think it's coming closer than we might think.”

The US-born Santa Cruz concept (pictured) is still used around the wider company as a reference, according to Mr Grant, but it is unlikely to make it to Australia.

“The truck-based version is more the reality for this market, and I think other markets are now very firm on it as well,” he said. “HMC can see that it is a requirement in the future and that's why we've moved to the next sort of stage of actually, preparing in some way or other to make it happen.”

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