CHULA VISTA, CA –may not be finished with the large cross/utility-vehicle segment, despite plans to jettison the Veracruz.
The Korean brand expects to fill the void somewhat with the upcoming long-wheelbase version of the next-generation midsize Santa Fe. But another large CUV, one that is luxury-leaning as well isn't out of the question.
"I would say stay tuned for future details on a potential premium crossover," John Krafcik, CEO-Motor America, tells WardsAuto at a media event here. While the auto maker has no specific plan for such a model, he says the brand is keeping an eye on the segment, calling it "an intriguing space."
The possible large premium CUV would compete with other 3-row, unibody CUVs such as the new Infiniti JX and Audi Q7, as well as the less-pricy Dodge Journey and Kia Sorento. Hyundai has expressed a desire to use the rear-wheel-drive platform underpinning its premium Genesis and Equus sedans for other models, possibly CUVs, which Krafcik reconfirms here.
The auto maker had high hopes for the Veracruz, at one time citing an annual U.S. sales goal of 50,000 units, but the CUV never reached that lofty level. WardsAuto data shows 2007 was the vehicle's best year, with 12,589 deliveries. Sales this year through May were down 2.4% compared with like-2011, to 3,112.
At its 2007 launch, the Veracruz was positioned as a premium model. But data from Internet tracking-firm Compete shows the large CUV most often has been cross-shopped among Hyundai 's own CUVs and those of sister-brand Kia, as well as midrange models that include the Chevrolet Equinox,Edge and RAV4 and Highlander.
Hyundai is excited about the new Santa Fe's prospects here, hoping it will ignite the auto maker’s CUV sales and establish the brand in its segment as the Sonata did in the midsize sedan group.
The next-generation Santa Fe, shown at April's New York auto show, launches around September with the short-wheelbase model, dubbed the Santa Fe Sport. The long- wheelbase version is 3.9 ins. (9.9 cm) longer than the SWB Santa Fe and should start arriving at dealers in December or January.
Santa Fe engines are shared with other Hyundai models. The new Santa Fe Sport will use the Sonata's two direct-injected fours, a 2.0L turbo mill and a 2.4L, while the LWB Santa Fe will be powered by the new Azera's 3.3L DI V-6.
Both Sante Fe models will offer premium interior features, such as a heated steering wheel, panoramic sunroof and blind-spot detection.
The midsize CUV segment has been one of the fastest-growing groups in the U.S. Through May, it was the third-biggest light-vehicle segment, with 918,596 units sold, according to WardsAuto data.
"We haven't really played with a volume, non-premium 3-row crossover," Krafcik says. "Now we have that with the new 3-row Santa Fe. That (and the Sport model) gives us access to one of the highest-volume segments in the market.”