One niche at a time.
The ute market is certainly hotting up this year, with the arrival of the Mercedes-Benz X-Class not that far off, followed by the Ford Ranger Raptor performance-ute afterwards. Truly, there has never been a time when one segment featured quite so much differentiation and offered quite so much individuality, allowing buyers to go from no-nonsense work-utes to posh, luxurious pickups that won’t look out of place in the financial district, to pedal-to-the-metal performance off-roaders that promise they’ll be docile on the road, too.
So you can imagine where a middle-of-the-road option like the Toyota Hilux finds itself today, unsure of where the market’s going to swing tomorrow. With the might of the Toyota corporation, it could attack all niches at once, though they’d run the risk of failing to execute. But being Toyota, they’ve decided they’ll take on the growing competition cautiously, and focus on one sub-segment first: Posh utes.
2018 will see the revision of the Toyota Hilux, due sometime in the middle of the year, and the Hilux range is expected to welcome a new flagship. Sitting above the existing SR5, the new Hilux variant will be plusher, posher, more cosseting and generally more luxurious, perhaps leveraging the cabin from the Toyota Fortuner SUV (which has been praised time and time again for its Lexus-like qualities) as well as some other bits and pieces from Toyota’s more upmarket parts bins.
Toyota celebrated its 15th year in a row as Australia’s top-selling marque, which perhaps persuaded Toyota Australia president Matthew Callachor to be a bit more candid about what’s to come for the brand and its best-selling model in the future.
“I think there is room, probably, in the top-end for the Hilux. In terms of where the market is, the top-selling vehicle is the top-end version, so what I would probably say to you is to stay tuned. There are opportunities for the Hilux into the future.” — Matthew Callachor, President, Toyota Australia
Toyota’s local design and engineering resources are expected to play a critical role in the development of the new Hilux, which will go some way in getting the Hilux to the 1-million mark by the end of this year. But while some will be overjoyed at the arrival of a new luxury ute, those hoping for something more performance-oriented from the brand will be left disappointed, as there appears to be no intention of breaking into the performance-ute segment with another new Hilux variant.
That means that with the 2018 refresh, the Hilux will be taking aim at contenders like the Volkswagen Amarok V6 and the Mercedes-Benz X-Class, both cars that claim to set new standards in on-road manners, refinement, and usability in the class. On the other hand, it means that more driver-focused options like the Ford Ranger Raptor will be left unperturbed.
So where’s your cash going, mate?