At one time, the home of the Crimson Tide was pretty much nowhere when it came to cars except for Talladega Superspeedway and the old fairgrounds oval at Birmingham, longtime fertile ground for the Allison brothers and the ageless Red Farmer, just for instance. Then Mercedes-Benz was lured into the state to build SUVs at a new plant in Vance, and more recently, Hyundai has established a major North American assembly operation in the state capital, Montgomery. If you ever, for whatever reason, have doubted that Hyundai is a for-real player on the American automotive landscape, here’s something to think about: All of the industrial giant’s biggest-selling vehicles are now being built under roof (honest) in Montgomery, exclusively for sale on this continent. This week, Hyundai’s Alabama gang got a little larger in a very significant way.
With this week’s rollout of the new Santa Cruz, which Hyundai refers to as a Sport Adventure Vehicle but is more accurately a tiny front-drive pickup, five critical vehicles are now undergoing final assembly at Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama for distribution to some 820 dealerships across the United States, Canada and Mexico. Expected to cross sabers with both the Honda Ridgeline and forthcoming Ford Maverick, Hyundai’s new trucklet is intelligently packaged for today’s realities, featuring a secure open cargo bed with a lockable tonneau cover for security, along with hidden storage areas in the bed. A four-door crew cab, we like to call it, is standard. Hyundai’s promised segment-buster joins the Sonata and Elantra sedans and Tucson and Santa Fe SUVs as HMMA-built vehicles.