THE new Hilux – only the Toyota sticker across the tailgate is carried over – looks set to become the first ute to outsell every traditional passenger car over a full year.
The previous model was the best-selling four-wheel drive and had claimed the overall crown in particular months – and there is a good chance the eighth-generation Hilux will go one better.
The Hilux’s rise from a work truck favoured by farmers and miners to a car that outsells the Holden Commodore, Mazda3 and even Toyota’s own Corolla is down to increased demand for dual-cab utes and dominance in its segment no rival has come close to.
Toyota says it will sell more than 40,000 Hiluxes in 2016, putting it within firing range of the two cars currently ahead of it on the annual sales charts – the Corolla and Mazda3.
But Toyota’s sales estimate is conservative, and the brand’s Australian president, Dave Buttner, hints there could be more left in the Hilux tank.
“It’s always based on availability out of the plant in Thailand,” says Buttner, indicating demand for the new arrival won’t be an issue. “We’ll certainly get our 40,000 [sales].
“We always try to push the pale … if there’s upside there we’ll fight tooth and nail to get availability out of the plant to satisfy whatever we have in demand.”
Helping the Hilux is the fact that its model range has expanded. The cheap and cheerful Workmate 4x4 has returned, giving tradies a cheap four-wheel drive option. And Toyota has followed the likes of the Ford Ranger, Mazda BT-50 and Mitsubishi Triton with “Hi-Rider” models, which have the off-road look and higher ride without the expensive 4WD hardware.
In all there will be 31 variants covering 2WD and 4WD (75 percent of sales are expected to be 4WD). There are two petrol engines (a 2.7-litre four-cylinder and a 4.0-litre V6), two diesel engines (new generation 2.4 and 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesels), auto and manual gearboxes, and three grades – Workmate, SR and SR5.
It’s not just the forecast growth in Hilux sales likely to propel it to the top of the sales podium: there is also the drop in sales of small cars.
Mazda3 sales are down 10.8 percent for the first 8 months of 2015, a result of a shift in buyer preferences, predominantly to small SUVs such as Mazda’s own CX-3 (Mazda predicted the 3 would get caught in the crossfire).
Corolla sales are also down 2.9 percent for 2015, although Toyota says that’s partly due to supply constraints with the updated hatch.
However, the Corolla will come under increased competition in 2016 from new small-SUV arrivals, among them the production version of the C-HR concept – Toyota’s answer to the Mazda CX-3, Honda HR-V and upcoming Jeep Renegade – which could be on sale by the end of the year or early 2017.
Buttner admits the Hilux “could” get to number one but he says the focus is not on achieving the milestone, although he says the brand is happy to take it if it happens.
“We don’t mind which car is number one, so long as we’re selling the volume,” he says.
Click here to read the full range review of the Toyota Hilux.