It’s official: the Toyota HiLux was Australia’s top-selling new vehicle in 2016, marking the first time a light commercial ute has finished a calendar year atop the podium.
Remarkably, about half of these were the flagship SR5 4×4, which surged on the back of growth in the ‘lifestyle’ ute market, and responded to unprecedented discounts prompted in the most part by the success of the Ford Ranger.
Yet Toyota will see some clouds alongside the sunshine.
Its Ford Ranger nemesis made inroads to finish a close second in the light commercial market (fourth in market overall, ahead of the Mazda 3), and almost beating the HiLux in more lucrative 4×4 sales — 31,076 versus 30,880.
Toyota’s truck also beat out its Corolla stablemate (40,330), which has held the overall sales crown for three years, with a grand total of 42,104 sales including the base 4×2 range. It also beat the Hyundai i30 (37,772) and the Mazda 3 — winner in 2012 — with 36,107.
Indeed, HiLux sales in both configurations climbed almost 20 per cent, double the segment average, though the cumulative tally was only the nameplate’s second-highest on record. It’s been the market’s top commercial for 19 years in a row.
The HiLux was the top-selling vehicle in WA for the ninth-year in a row, and Queensland for the 10th. In the NT, it has reigned for a staggering 16 years.
Toyota Australia’s executive director sales and marketing Tony Cramb (pictured below) said the victory by HiLux marked a “significant turning point” in the Australian automotive industry, largely on account of the HiLux’s new buyer profile.
“HiLux has made history as the first vehicle of its type to stand on top of the sales podium in Australia because it has broad appeal with the car-buying public,” Cramb stated.
“The buyer profile has changed dramatically in recent years, with HiLux progressively offering the upmarket features and comfort demanded by families while maintaining its traditional popularity among tradespeople as the consummate workhorse.
“As recently as 2011, the biggest-selling variant was the 4×2 single cab-chassis in tough-as-nails Workmate trim – a vehicle where ‘air conditioning’ meant you opened the windows.
“While demand for that variant has not diminished, and air conditioning has been made standard, we now sell almost twice as many top-of-the-range 4×4 SR5 double cabs fitted with luxury features such as climate-control air-conditioning, keyless entry and ignition, satellite navigation and the option of leather-accented seats.
“In fact, shifting consumer preferences resulted in several ‘firsts’ in 2016: the SR5 was our biggest-selling HiLux grade and accounted for more than half of all HiLux 4×4 sales; and an automatic transmission was specified by the majority of buyers.”
This result is also emblematic of a general market shift: light commercial vehicle volume climbed 9.4 per cent for the year to own 18.5 per cent market share, while passenger cars’ market share fell a few percentage points to 43 per cent (SUV share was 35.4 per cent).
As we’ll report separately, 2016 set a new sales high-water mark for the Australian new vehicle industry, with 1,178,133 new vehicles sold, up 2 per cent on last year’s record.
Toyota was the market leader with 209,610 sales, ahead of Mazda on 118,217 (up almost 4 per cent), Hyundai on 101,555 (down 0.4 per cent), Holden (94,308, down 8.4 per cent) and a resurgent Ford (81,207, up 15.3 per cent).
*Source: VFACTS data