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Hyundai Motor Finally Joining Pickup Truck Market.

Seoul-headquartered automaker Hyundai Motor is finally joining the pickup truck market starting with a crossover pickup truck, which it unveiled two years ago. The company is said to be planning to debut the vehicle in the U.S. 

On Wednesday, South Korea's no. 1 automotive company announced its decision to move forward with its planned pickup truck development. A spokesperson for the company even told ( The Investor , "We are reviewing plans to launch a pickup truck for the U.S. market."

The statement from the unnamed spokesperson - who also declined to confirm that the first pickup truck offering will be based off of the Santa Cruz concept - coincides with what ( Reuters reported earlier about Hyundai green lighting production of its new truck. 

Vice president of corporate and product planning at Hyundai Motor America Michael J. O'Brien said the go signal to produce pickup trucks came from the top management of the company in Seoul. O'Brien noted that the decision was reached due to the company's desire to catch up with the trend pertaining to the U.S. motorists' preference for bigger vehicles. 

Joining the pickup truck market could be a beneficial move for Hyundai since it is currently experiencing sluggish sales of its vehicles. Based on statistics collated last year, automakers sold 10.6 million units of light-trucks, SUVs, CUVs and pickup trucks. Specifically speaking, around 2.7 million pickup trucks were sold in the U.S. in 2016. The figure is up by 6 percent from the year before. 

However, launching a pickup truck in the U.S. could also be challenging for Hyundai because truck buyers in the country are known to be loyal to certain American brands. "Pickup trucks are traditionally favored vehicles in the US and owners tend to show strong brand loyalty. Sales of pickups make up a significant part of GM, Ford and other automakers in the US," Daelim University automotive engineering professor Kim Pil-soo was quoted as saying by ( Korea Herald . 

Hyundai's sales in the U.S. struggled in the first half of the year. Its sales declined 7.4 percent on-year to 346,360 units. The decline is said to be due to the fact that the South Korean carmaker was a late comer to the SUV market. Hence, Hyundai is also planning to launch a compact SUV later this year on top of its first pickup truck. 

The company is reportedly rolling out its compact SUV called Kona this December. It will then launch a new version of its Santa Fe SUV in 2018 before introducing a brand new 7-passenger crossover in early 2019. Then in 2020, Hyundai will be unveiling a redesigned Tucson SUV. 

As for its first pickup truck, ( CNET says its very likely that Hyundai will follow the Santa Cruz concept it introduced at the 2015 Detroit Auto Show. When the automaker introduced the Santa Cruz, it indicated that the concept truck was supposed to be targeting young shoppers with very active lifestyles. 

From the looks of things, Hyundai's first pickup truck could be akin to Honda's Ridgeline. However, it's expected to be smaller and less expensive. It is also rumored to be front-wheel drive, though the Santa Cruz concept was AWD. There's also reason to believe that the upcoming vehicle will not focus on towing capacity and other pickup truck metrics, but on its capacity to provide a more manageable footprint. 
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Publication:International Business Times - US ed.
Geographic Code:9SOUT
Date:Aug 23, 2017
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