Hyundai ute plan finally making progress

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Hyundai Australia (HMCA) has made some progress convincing its global parent to produce a proper Toyota HiLux and Ford Ranger workhorse ute rival, though nothing will launch before 2020.

HMCA chief operating officer Scott Grant told us this week that messages out of Korea have recently become a little different when the topic of a light commercial ute/pickup is broached. Hyundai’s local arm has long, and publicly, lobbied its head office to develop such a LCV.

“It’s been advanced as we understand it,” he said, though tempered this by adding that “it won’t be anything this side of 2020”. Grant, who has been at HMCA for two years, is a former Toyota marketing manager, so he knows the LCV market well.

“We’ve got a planning horizon in place where they’re looking at the vehicle quite seriously, but there is yet to be a commitment to produce,” he added.

“But I believe that’s different to where we’ve been in the past. In the past we’ve been proposing, [the response has been] ‘yes thanks for information, we will consider’, to now being a ‘yes, there’s a similar requirement in other markets’, so we’re working towards something.

Pictured: 2015 Hyundai Santa Cruz concept

“I can’t confirm what or when, but it’s a slightly different message. Not any time soon but it’s starting to feel like there’s some movement,” he said.

We asked Grant if other world regions were demanding the vehicle — a proper ute, not the softer US-market Santa Cruz concept — to which he answered in the affirmative. It was a topic at a global executive council meeting among 20 key export regions in February this year.

It’s long been known that a Hyundai ute, to complement its popular iLoad van, is an essential part of any intended jump up the Australian sales charts. Hyundai is presently third with 9.1 per cent market share, behind Mazda (10.2) and Toyota (17.1).

Utes make up a massive 16.5 per cent of the market this year (just under 100,000 sold in the first half) and the HiLux, Ranger, Mitsubishi Triton and Holden Colorado are all well and truly ensconced among the nation’s top-selling vehicles.

MORE: Top-selling utes and vans: Deep-dive into Toyota HiLux, Ford Ranger and beyond