TOYOTA’S Hilux will today be crowned the top selling vehicle in the country for 2016 in a record new car market where almost 1.2 million vehicles have been sold.
It is the first time a ute has topped the sales chart ahead of traditional passenger cars and represents the further fragmentation of a market that is seeing the domination of small cars eroded by SUVs and pick-up trucks – in much the same way as sales of large cars dropped over more than a decade.
A sales surge late in the year saw the workhorse Hilux ute beat the Toyota Corolla to the top selling spot, giving the Japanese brand a historic sales win as it prepares to shut down its Australian manufacturing facilities (for Camry and Aurion) late this year.
The news – which was forecast by Wheels when the current Hilux arrived late in 2015 - will be welcome for Toyota, which has spent four years fending off a charge from the Ford Ranger (below), the Hilux’s closest rival.
The Hilux has dominated ute sales for 18 years, and finished second in the overall sales race (behind the Mazda 3) in 2012.
But its share has been eroded in recent years – most noticeably throughout 2016 – by the Ranger, which has enjoyed impressive success, especially with its flagship Wildtrak model and the XLT that sits below it.
The Ranger has outsold the Hilux for most of the year in off-road-focused 4x4 models – with dual-cab versions leading the charge – but the Hilux’s strength in the lower, more affordable end of the market saw it pull a clear lead over its arch rival.
Sales of utes have more than doubled since 2001 to the point where they now account for more than 16 percent of the Australian market, or almost one in six new-vehicle sales.
Improved comfort, safety features and driveability are behind the shift to dual-cab utes, which are still popular with tradies but have gained traction with grey nomads, families and off-road adventurers.
The Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries will release full details on the new car sales figures at noon EST today.