It’s become the talking point of the commercial sales race and has forced market heavyweight Toyota to do something it has never done before … give the emperor new clothes.
The emperor in question is the Hilux, New Zealand’s workhorse of choice for 30-odd years.
It’s been given a new set of duds because it’s been replaced by the Ford Ranger (above) as the top-selling commercial vehicle so far this year. Now Toyota wants its crown back.
The success of Ranger sent Toyota executives into the think tank in Palmerston North. They emerged with a plan: dress up a four-wheel-drive Hilux with performance-themed kit from the Toyota Racing Development (TRD) division and and limit production to 250 examples and three colours. Call it the Hilux 4WD Special Edition TRD and price it at $55,990.
The TRD is the second so-called special edition in the Hilux range, joining the recently unveiled two-wheel-drive Hilux Edge. Toyota says both vehicles have been released to “celebrate the ongoing popularity of Toyota’s iconic workhorse.” Perhaps a better explanation is that the current Hilux range is nearing the end of its life – an all-new model is expected next year.
For four months to the end of April Ford had sold 1684 Rangers and Toyota 1503 Hiluxes, according to Motor Industry Association figures. In April alone, Ford sold 513 Rangers for 20 per cent of the commercial market. Toyota sold 377 Hiluxes for 15 per cent.
Year to date, the commercial vehicle market is running 18 per cent up on the same period last year.
Last month was the strongest April for overall sales since April 1982. Despite, Easter weekend, ANZAC day and school holidays, sales topped off at 8729 units, made up of 6151 passenger cars and 2578 commercials.
Overall sales at the end of April totaled 39,588 units – 28,982 passenger cars and 10,606 commercials. Sales of passenger cars for the past four months were up 12 per cent on last year. The best-selling example is the Toyota Corolla, followed by the Suzuki Swift and Holden Commodore.
The Corolla led April sales but the Nissan X-Trail SUV made a strong start to finish second, ahead of Commodore. Sports utility vehicles occupied 30 per cent of the April market, followed by pick-ups/chassis-cabs with 21 per cent and small passenger cars at 19 per cent.
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.
– Alastair Sloane