Despite the Toyota HiLux dominating local sales figures for the last sixth months consecutively – and taking out top honours in 2016 – the Japanese car maker's local division says it's taking the market and the segment seriously, with more upgrades and improvements to the hard-working model well and truly in the pipeline.
“We’re certainly not going to rest on our laurels,” Toyota Australia product public relations manager Stephen Coughlan told CarAdvice.
“HiLux has a very long history in Australia and it's something that’s very close to our heart. It's a long-standing nameplate, it’s something that people can trust and rely upon, and we continue to improve the offering of the range as well.”
Well aware of the ever-growing popularity of the 4x4 dual-cab ute formula, Coughlan hinted that as interest from even premium marques increases – such as the soon-to-arrive Mercedes-Benz X-Class and a recently discussed rival from BMW – Toyota has to keep the HiLux evolving.
“Truth be told, and it’s no surprise here, the competition in the segment is red hot,” Coughlan said.
“There are more marques coming in and that are interested than ever, so we’ll continue to improve and evolve the product, and we’ll continue to offer what local buyers want in terms of the range and the variants.”
Apart from ongoing development and evaluation from Toyota’s local vehicle engineering and development group – previously the Toyota Technical Centre – Coughlan believes that ensuring the HiLux (along with the updated Landcruiser Prado, the Landcruiser 200 Series, and the Fortuner) is not only tested and developed to handle Australian conditions, but built and tuned to exceed local and global requirements is crucial to the model’s success.
Further, some “finessing” and “augmenting” of the existing line-up is aimed at better serving a wider range of buyers.
“We’re on the cusp, I can tell you, of a tech change… that will see some minor updates to a couple of existing variants.
“I’m talking more cosmetic things – LED fog lamps will be adopted on the SR5, for example – and in terms of transmissions, we’ll be rolling out a broader suite of automatic transmissions on particularly extra-cabs, and other variants, that previously just weren’t available.”
And with the level of dual-cab pickups continuing to rise – a la the up to 180kW and 550Nm Volkswagen Amarok V6 and recently confirmed hardcore Ford Ranger Raptor – Coughlan confirmed Toyota Australia is looking into what it can do next with the HiLux.
“It’s certainly one of the areas we’re looking at,” Coughlan said.
“There’s obviously an appetite for something that sits either alongside the SR5 or even above it, so that’s certainly where we’re examining. But over and above that, I can’t say at this time.”
Having dabbled in the territory of a more extreme HiLux before – think the 2017 Toyota HiLux with TRD Accessories – it was the locally-designed Toyota HiLux Tonka concept that really got chins wagging about the potential for a bigger, better HiLux.
“The feedback [to the Tonka concept] has been exceptional – the feedback has been really, really positive. And people are very excited that we could bring to market something of that ilk…
“[There’s] nothing to announce at this juncture, but we’re certainly taking that feedback very seriously.”
Taking over from the long-standing top-selling Toyota Corolla, the Toyota HiLux took the crown for Australia’s best-selling new vehicle in 2016, marking the first time a light commercial ute has finished a calendar year atop the sales race podium.
And this year alone, HiLux sales are up 13.7 per cent, with an all-time record of 31,407 units delivered year-to-date, putting the ‘unbreakable’ ute on a solid path to taking back-to-back sales titles.