Blue is brew­ing


THE gloves are off among the blue sin­glet brigade. There are un­prece­dented sav­ings on topselling utes.

Deals on pick-ups are his­tor­i­cally strong­est in June — but with a bat­tle brew­ing in the an­nual sales race, tradies are now spoiled for choice in the lead-up to De­cem­ber 31.

Af­ter two utes topped the mar­ket in Oc­to­ber for the first time ever, the Toy­ota HiLux has dropped to a new low price just 12 months af­ter the lat­est model went on sale — $6500 off the full re­tail price of its flag­ship SR5 model, to $52,990 drive-away.

Cus­tom­ar­ily such dis­counts ap­pear as a ve­hi­cle gets much older. Toy­ota has had to sharpen its prices be­cause the Ford Ranger four-door 4WD has beaten the equiv­a­lent HiLux model six times in the past 10 months.

Adding to the pres­sure, Ford has re­leased a dis­counted $49,990 drive-away ver­sion of the Ranger — which nor­mally does not at­tract such sav­ings — in an at­tempt to un­der­cut the HiLux, Aus­tralia’s favourite work­horse for the past 30 years.

Ford also now has free sup­ply of the flag­ship Ranger WildTrak as 1100 ve­hi­cles are due to ar­rive be­fore Christ­mas to try to fill ev­ery or­der on the six-month wait­ing list.

At the bar­gain end of the mar­ket, the Mit­subishi Tri­ton is mak­ing life dif­fi­cult for the main­stream brands with a red­hot deal that’s at least $10,000 less than most ri­vals, at $35,990 drive-away.

Mean­while Volk­swa­gen is stick­ing to its prom­ise to go af­ter the tradies, con­tin­u­ing its $39,990 drive-away deal on the Amarok “Core” base model.

It comes with a vinyl floor and there is no rear cam­era, no Ap­ple CarPlay/An­droid Auto, no rear sen­sors and only four airbags (oth­ers have six or seven) but it still has a leather­trimmed steer­ing wheel, cruise con­trol and auto-up win­dows on all four doors. Its cabin and tray are sig­nif­i­cantly big­ger than any other ute in the class.

VW has a five-year/ un­lim­ited kilo­me­tre war­ranty on ex­am­ples bought through its fi­nance di­vi­sion. A four-door 2WD is just $29,990 drive-away.

Mazda has ripped up about $4000 off the full RRP of its BT-50 ute un­til the end of De­cem­ber.

The mid­dle of the range BT-50 XTR is $47,990 driveaway for a six-speed man­ual; the flag­ship BT-50 GT is $49,990 drive-away.

The com­pe­ti­tion is so tough that Holden launched its up­dated Colorado ute with drive-away pric­ing across the range just two months ago.

But de­spite the mas­sive up­grades and the sharper pric­ing, the new Holden Colorado isn’t sell­ing as well as ex­pected, so more dis­counts are likely around the cor­ner.

“The ute mar­ket has never been this com­pet­i­tive,” says Toy­ota Aus­tralia ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of sales and mar­ket­ing Tony Cramb. “Pick-ups th­ese days are like fam­ily SUVs with a tray on the back. The na­ture of the prod­uct is chang­ing.”

To­day’s utes have most mod­cons and are more car-like to drive.

“Pick-ups have been the top sell­ers in the US for some time, now that Aus­tralia is a more open mar­ket, things like this will hap­pen,” Cramb says.

Asked whether Toy­ota’s dis­counts were a des­per­ate move to try to win the new-car sales race in 2016 — the first time a ute would take such hon­ours — Cramb says: “We’re re­spond­ing to the mar­ket. It’d be nice (if the HiLux be­comes No.1) be­cause it means Aus­tralians chose that ve­hi­cle more than any other. But No.1 is not a tar­get. It’s up to cus­tomers to de­cide.”

So is Toy­ota con­cerned about Ford clos­ing the gap to HiLux sales? Cramb says: “We have re­spect for all our com­pe­ti­tion.”

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