As far as Australian automotive head-to-heads go, it’s hard to think of one more significant (or potentially parochial) than the Ford Ranger versus the Toyota HiLux.
These two icons of industry have come to define the lifestyle ute battle in Australia, which is now one of the three biggest market segments by volume alongside small cars and medium-sized SUVs.
This rivalry is particularly fearsome in the 4x4 market, which this year has triple the volume of the cheaper 4x2 segment. And between them, the Australian-engineered and designed Ranger, and the iconic HiLux, own a massive 41 per cent of the total market.
The battle between this Thai-built twosome could not be closer in 2016. To the end of August (using the latest industry VFACTS figures released this week), sales of the HiLux 4x4 are 20,213 units, compared to the Ranger 4x4 on 19,987.
Just 226 units separate these two giants, both of which are a country mile ahead of the Mitsubishi Triton (12,054) and Holden Colorado (11,347) — their two closest rivals by volume. The 4x4 Nissan Navara (9704), Isuzu D-Max (7120), Mazda BT-50 (6532) and Volkswagen Amarok (5395) are behind further still.
Moreover, the Ranger and HiLux are extending their lead this year. The segment growth overall is 10.5 per cent, but the Ford’s sales are up 37 per cent and the HiLux’s are up 21 per cent over the same timeframe.
As intriguingly, the share of HiLux SR5 and Ford Ranger Wildtrak/XLT remains remarkably high considering their pricing of around $60,000. In the case of Ford, about 60 per cent of sales are of the two high-spec models, aimed at ‘lifestyle’ rather than hardcore work.
In 4x4 guise alone, both the HiLux and Ranger have outsold the nation’s most popular SUV (the Mazda CX-5 on 16,428), mid-sized car (Toyota Camry on 14,535) and the Volkswagen Golf (13,854).
But it gets better. Add 4x2 models to the mix, and the Ranger (24,037) almost matches the Mazda 3’s sales of 24,407, while the HiLux including the hugely popular 4x2 range (total HiLux sales come to 27,618) is actually the nation’s top-selling vehicle, ahead of the Corolla.
Once again in 2016, more Toyota HiLuxes have been sold than any other vehicle, while the Ford Ranger sits in fifth position and makes up about 45 per cent of Ford’s total sales.
Needless to say, these two utes carry big loads both literally as well as figuratively.