Hyundai has been making a name for itself, building top quality vehicles at very competitive prices. Hyundai has also been entering new market segments, strengthening its midsize line and rolling out new technologies including hybrid systems and perhaps soon a hydrogen powered model.
But one area where Hyundai remains curiously absent is in the lucrative pickup truck market, dominated by the Ford F-Series, Chevrolet Silverado, GMC Sierra and Dodge Ram 1500. In recent years the Toyota Tundra and Nissan Titan have found a following, bringing profits to these two Japanese car makers as well.
Hyundai does have experience building trucks, selling its Hyundai porter in Korea and other markets. The Hyundai Porter is a commercial truck, therefore if Hyundai is to build and sell a passenger pickup truck, they’ll have to start from scratch. Or, as rumors have circulated in the past, hook up with Chrysler to build their own model.
But Hyundai does not seem interested in utilizing Dodge even thought Chrysler’s plan to supply the Ram 1500 platform to Nissan dried up when Chrysler went bankrupt in 2009 and emerged weeks later under the control of Fiat s.P.a. Likely, Hyundai does not want to rely on a platform supplier whose very existence remains uncertain.
So, what direction might Hyundai take in order to enter the pickup truck fray? Would a compact truck prove to be the preferred way to go or should Hyundai take on the Detroit 3 and Japanese 2 to build a big truck?
One way Hyundai could possibly “go big” is to take the existing Hyundai Porter and reconfigure it for pickup truck work. Hyundai already has the platform; stretching out the wheels and upgrading the suspension system is one approach. Taking the 4.6-liter TAU V-8 engine found in the Hyundai Genesis and Equus could deliver the powertrain needed; Hyundai already has the transmissions available.
The cheapest approach for Hyundai may not be the best one, however. Hyundai would be going up against the best of the Detroit 3 who have proven that they are still tops when compared to the Japanese 2.
The compact pickup truck market remains competitive and ripe for the tackling as the Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Frontier are the top sellers in the segment. Ford and GM are not offering much of a challenge and the Mahindra trucks are, well, delayed.
That leaves Hyundai and its Korean cousin, Kia, revisiting the pickup truck market again. As recently as 2008, the two brands had planned to build a large truck, but abandoned same as gas prices topped four dollars a gallon. Now, with gas prices flirting three dollars a gallon, the time for a new from the ground up compact truck is here.
But will Hyundai bite or miss an important opportunity to jump in?