The new Hyundai ute is currently being developed with input from Australia, and the manufacturer’s local arm is not willing to compromise on core details, despite the desperate need to fill a gaping hole in its product line-up.
New chief operating officer John Kett says Hyundai’s message is clear: “If we are going to bring a ute out it better be a ute”.
“It needs to be functional, that’s the important part isn’t it?” Kett says.
“We’ve gone down that pathway and the guys are working towards it. We just have to make sure when it arrives it’s a bloody ute.”
While that statement may seem obvious, Hyundai’s only public glimpse at a ute was the Santa Cruz concept of 2015. That car was more of a lightweight lifestyle vehicle than a proper dual-cab ute, and it’s not the machine on the manufacturer’s Australian wish list, despite the fact that it would arrive much earlier than a genuine one-tonne ute, which isn’t due until 2022 or 2023 at the earliest.
Hyundai marketing director Bill Thomas says the ute represents “a huge area of interest” for customers. A four-wheel-drive dual-cab ute popular enough to rival the top four models on sale would also be enough for Hyundai to leapfrog Mazda to become the second-highest selling brand in the country, only behind Toyota.
Given the popularity of the HiLux and Ranger, you could forgive Hyundai for rushing headlong towards a ute.
But Andrew Tuitahi, general manager of product for Hyundai, says the Australian team knows what it needs from a dual-cab ute, and that it needs to be right.
Tuitahi says his team will “make sure whatever is agreed to as a solution for the one tonne pick-up works as a solution for us and the other target markets the car will be developed for”.
“The fundamental request hasn’t changed in terms of powertrains, drivelines, chassis setup and abilities relative to towing and off road ability,” he says.
“That fundamental request has been consistent.”