Top ‘Tonka’ toy

The Weekly Advertiser Horsham - - Motoring -

Toy­ota Australia plans to launch a new high-end vari­ant of its top-sell­ing Hilux this year to take ad­van­tage of a boom in luxo-sports utes and – pre­sum­ably – to counter sim­i­lar pick-up vari­ants planned by ri­vals Ford and Holden.

The Thai-built one-tonne pick-up was de­clared Australia’s best-sell­ing ve­hi­cle last week for the sec­ond suc­ces­sive year af­ter achiev­ing a model record 47,093 sales in 2017 – up 11.8 per­cent on 2016 – to fin­ish the year ahead of Ford’s sec­ond-placed Ranger with 42,728 sales.

The Hilux sales rose by al­most 4000 units last year, ac­count­ing for a large chunk of the 10,983 extra sales across the en­tire 2017 Aus­tralian new-ve­hi­cle mar­ket that clocked up a record 1,1189,116 units, up 0.9 per­cent on 2016.

Toy­ota re­vealed the top-shelf SR5 4x4 dual-cab Hilux rep­re­sented 37 per­cent of all Hilux sales in 2017, re­flect­ing the mar­ket-wide buyer shift to well-equipped util­ity ve­hi­cles as an al­ter­na­tive to tra­di­tional pas­sen­ger sedans and wag­ons for both busi­ness and plea­sure.

This is de­spite a pric­etag start­ing at $54,440 plus on-road costs.

Ford and Holden have both sig­nalled their in­ten­tion to launch new sports vari­ants of their Ranger and Colorado utes this year, with the Ranger get­ting an off-road ori­ented Rap­tor ver­sion and Holden team­ing up with Holden Spe­cial Ve­hi­cles, HSV, to pro­duce a sports Colorado, called Sportscat.

In an­nounc­ing Toy­ota’s mar­ket­trounc­ing 2017 sales dom­i­nance, newly in­stalled Toy­ota Australia pres­i­dent Matthew Cal­la­chor said his com­pany would not be left out of this new ute mar­ket space and had some­thing up its sleeve for launch in the first half of this year.

He de­clined to dis­close de­tails of the new Hilux vari­ant, say­ing only: “Watch this space.”

Goauto un­der­stands the fresh Hilux will not just be a Trd-branded sports pack, get­ting sig­nif­i­cant chas­sis and styling changes while re­tain­ing the stan­dard 2.8-litre turbo-diesel pow­er­train.

The ve­hi­cle will likely be de­vel­oped by Toy­ota’s Aus­tralian de­sign and engi­neer­ing team, pos­si­bly draw­ing in­spi­ra­tion from the high-rid­ing Tonkabranded Hilux con­cept re­vealed in March last year.

The de­sign stu­dio – with a staff of 30 – is housed with the Toy­ota Australia prod­uct plan­ning di­vi­sion in Port Mel­bourne.

Mr Cal­la­chor said the de­sign stu­dio was a pri­or­ity for Toy­ota in Australia af­ter the clo­sure of the fac­tory in Al­tona in 2017, adding the com­pany would have some an­nounce­ments in that re­gard soon.

Toy­ota ex­pects the Hilux to con­tinue as its top seller this year, help­ing the Ja­panese brand to ex­tend its mar­ket lead­er­ship to 16 con­sec­u­tive years.

Toy­ota now leads the mar­ket in all Aus­tralian states, and while the Hilux has been num­ber one na­tion­ally for the past two years, it has been top dog in Queens­land for 11 years.

Of 4x4 Hilux vari­ants, the SR5 dual-cab ac­counts for 50 per­cent of sales, while au­to­matic trans­mis­sions – once a rar­ity in one-tonne utes – now hold down 60 per­cent of sales.

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