Top ‘Tonka’ toy
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.