Hyundai has raised hopes for a ute model after the Korean company’s vice chairman Chung Eui-sun personally put his weight behind the project that could launch to global markets as early as 2020.
This week Hyundai Motor Company Australia (HMCA) chief executive officer JW Lee confirmed that Mr Eui-sun – the son and “heir apparent” to Hyundai Motor Group global chairman Chung Mong-koo – is very serious about seeing a ute concept through to production.
“Our vice chairman has said recently, (and has) mentioned several times, about this type of pick-up truck, (and has stated this) very seriously,” Mr Lee said.
“We are yet to disclose the entire program, but as this time he is serious, it may be two to three years (away). In my view, a decision has been made, but more detail cannot be disclosed."
The ute project is expected to be built on a ladder-frame chassis with a one-tonne payload and would be designed as a direct rival for the Ford Ranger, Toyota HiLux and Mitsubishi Triton in the South-East Asian, European and Australian markets where demand for one-tonne utilities is expected to keep booming.
Insiders say a new ute may be built outside of Korea as factory space is limited because of the expansion of Hyundai, Genesis and Kia products.
Establishing a plant in South-East Asia, at the heartland of a ute’s biggest market, was a possibility and locations such as Thailand and Vietnam were being considered.
Hyundai – and its affiliate Kia – have toyed with a ute model since the Santa Cruz concept of 2015, but Mr Lee confirmed the production version will be made exclusively in left-hand-drive guise and is not intended for sale in Australia.
He said the Santa Cruz was too small for the market segment that Mr Eui-sun is proposing to enter.
Ute models have also recently been spied testing in South Korea. The first a large Ford F-150-sized pick-up and the other estimated to be the same scale as the Ford Ranger.
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