Ute sales in the first four months of 2014 pointed to the Ford Ranger doing the unthinkable – overtaking the Toyota Hilux as New Zealand’s No. 1 workhorse.
Won’t happen, said the industry pundits. You watch, they said, Hilux will still be No.1 at the end of the year. But Ranger’s odds of an upset looked good after four months. So good that I penned for these pages back then a bush ballad about Ranger’s chances.
It came after Ranger had run away from the field early and Toyota sought to peg it back with a special edition 4WD Hilux. It was dressed in a performance-themed kit from the Toyota Racing Development (TRD) and priced at $55,990.
The Ballad of Hilux and Ranger
When the food stocks are low, and the grog’s gone,
When the bush camp fire starts to splutter,
The only thing left for a working bloke to do,
Is take his Hilux to the track for a flutter.
Now a gamble or two is okay for a few,
A bookie I once knew had a stutter,
The worse it got the odds were soon shot,
And a sprinter might start as a trotter.
But the race doesn’t count once the jockey tells his mount,
That the others in the field can’t compete,
That’s been the way of the Hilux tale,
And we all know it’s far from complete.
The Hilux has been the mount of choice,
Over years it’s run itself ragged,
But now it has a challenger,
A Ford that looks far from haggard.
The Ranger they call it, a cowboy-type name,
And it’s tough as an old leather saddle,
It’s leading the sales race, the figures confirm,
And leaving Hilux stuck in its shadow.
So the Toyota blokes all chorused as one,
About the threat the big Ford poses,
They dressed Hilux in clothes, a bit on the nose,
And said it came up smelling like roses.
They added bits here and graphic there,
And lined the seats with black leather,
But try as they might they couldn’t alight,
From the fact that it only looked better.
Still, under the skin it’s all Hilux trim,
And the showy stuff won’t count a toss,
But the numbers don’t lie, the Ford people cry,
The Ranger might just become boss.
May 5, 2014
And so it panned out. Ranger ended 2014 as No. 1. It was the first time in 30-odd years that Hilux had finished second. The tough Toyota has been runner-up in the registration stakes every year since.
2014: Ranger 6330 – Hilux 5774
2015: Ranger 6818 – Hilux 5623
2016: Ranger 8478 – Hilux 6187
2017: Ranger 9420 – Hilux 8106
2018: Ranger 9904 – Hilux 8086
2019: Ranger 9485 – Hilux 7126
2020: Ranger 5623 – Hilux 3989 (at end of September)
Ford NZ launched Ranger late in 2011. It muscled its way into the ute field in 2012 before galloping into contention in 2013 with 4924 registrations, a short head away second to Hilux’s 5041. It was Hilux’s last hurrah.
Both Ford and Toyota launched new Ranger and Hilux models in 2015. There’s since been the occasional variant to appeal to their core bases. Now they’re doing it again, Ford with the Ranger FX4 Max (at top) and Toyota with the Hilux Mako (below).
Ford describes its factory-built FX4 Max as a “weekend off-roader”. It is a less expensive relative of the Raptor. It gets Raptor’s bold F.O.R.D grille, uses Raptor’s bi-turbo (157kW/500Nm) 2.0-litre diesel engine, 10-speed automatic gearbox, and a similar jacked-up suspension package, including Fox shock absorbers at all four corners. It borrows Raptor’s tyres, too, Goodrich all-terrain rubber. Price is $69,990.
Hilux Mako is built-to-order at Toyota NZ’s plant in Thames and makes use of its plentiful parts bin. Each model gets ARB Old Man Emu shock absorbers, Maxxis Razr off-road tyres, steel braided brake lines, skid plate, and heavy duty front and rear replacement bumpers. Under the bonnet is the updated 2.8-litre turbo-diesel, delivering 150kW/500Nm via a six-speed auto ‘box. Mako is priced at $79,990. The optional towbar adds another $1500.