When the Hyundai Tucson goes on sale in the third quarter of this year and stocks run out of the ix35 (which the mid-size Tucson effectively replaces), Hyundai Australia will be without a small SUV in its lineup.
And a true small SUV replacement will be "a number of years" away.
With the Chinese-market ix25 not up to Australia's rigorous ANCAP safety standards and the Indian-built i20 Active Crossover also suffering from substandard safety, there is presently no global Hyundai product that could fill the ix35-sized void that will soon appear in Hyundai Australia's range.
"We won’t have a small SUV for a number of years," Hyundai Australia Chief Operating Officer John Elsworth said at the local launch of the i30 Series 2.
However, with sales in the small SUV segment currently booming (year-to-date, the segment has logged a whopping 30 percent growth compared to last 2014), Hyundai is acutely aware of the need for a new product in that space.
What that product will be isn't immediately apparent, but a Hyundai spokesperson indicated that the Intrado concept revealed early last year (below) would provide some clues as to what to expect.
According to current reports, an Intrado-based small SUV/crossover is being planned for an production debut in Europe and the USA (and, presumably, Australia) sometime in 2017, while the current ix25 and i20 Active Crossover will remain exclusive to developing markets.
Meanwhile, the small SUV space isn't the only segment where Hyundai will be absent.
Despite some initial euphoria among those hoping for a Hyundai ute, the Santa Cruz Concept that debuted in Detroit in January (above) is definitely not the Hyundai one-tonner the company's local product planners have been praying for.
Based on an ix35 platform and sporting a truncated tub with limited load-carrying capacity, the Santa Cruz is a preview of a niche lifestyle-oriented car rather than a rugged workhorse.
According to Hyundai Australia product planning head Andrew Tuitahi, it's most definitely not the ute his team has been looking for - nor is it locked in for the production line.
"As far as we understand it the car [Santa Cruz] is very firmly a concept," he said.
"Of course if it was to make it to production globally we’d look at the business case locally and see what could be achieved, but in terms of a full size pickup, we are actively always looking for ways to get that model."
Despite the impending loss of a small SUV and the absence of a ute, Hyundai Australia remains confident that it will be able to sell more cars than last year's 100,011-unit result - even with no growth predicted for overall new car sales this year.
The recently-arrived Sonata and just-launched i30 Series 2 are expected to build volume, and demand for the Tucson is also expected to be strong once it launches around mid-year. A Santa Fe update due later in the year will also boost sales.
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