The coronavirus crisis has paused international travel, so many Australians are instead planning road trips at home – and buying heavy duty four-wheel-drives and tow vehicles.
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An increasing number of Australians are planning epic road trips on home soil because of travel restrictions overseas, according to the latest new-car sales data which has unearthed an unexpected trend.

Sales of heavy-duty four-wheel-drives and towing vehicles – such as the Toyota LandCruiser 200 Series, Nissan Patrol, Ram 1500 and Chevrolet Silverado 1500 – have either surged or remained relatively strong in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.

Despite the overall market slowdown by 48 per cent in April 2020 versus the same month the prior year, figures show there were sales increases for the Nissan Patrol (up 32 per cent), Ram 1500 (up 31 per cent), and Chevrolet Silverado (up 14 per cent), while the Toyota LandCruiser 200 Series only declined by 13 per cent.

All four vehicles can comfortably tow 3500kg in standard trim, while the US pick-ups can tow up to and in excess of 4500kg with the correct hitch.

Dealers representing each of the four brands say orders have remained strong for these vehicles throughout May, and some showrooms are now quoting delivery dates of August or September as they run out of stock.

The Melbourne facility that remanufactures the Ram 1500 from left-hand-drive to right-hand-drive is running 24 hours, five days a week.

Both the Ram 1500 and new Chevrolet Silverado 1500 – remanufactured to factory right-hand-drive standards locally on adjacent assembly lines – are also experiencing delays because there is only a limited number of car carriers large enough to transport the US pick-ups from the Melbourne facility to dealerships across Australia.

Nissan has been caught by surprise by the surge in demand for its recently facelifted Patrol and is urgently trying to order more stock from the factory.

Part of the reason for the Toyota LandCruiser’s sales slide is limited showroom stock – dealers say they could sell more if they could source more – as buyers grab one of the last V8s amid rumours the next generation model due within the next two years will switch to V6 power.

“We’ve definitely seen an increase in people buying either heavy duty four-wheel-drives or (US-style) pick-ups,” a metropolitan multi-franchise dealer told CarAdvice.

“A lot of (these vehicles) are going out heavy with all the gear on them because people want to do the big Aussie road trip over the next couple of years.

“When the lockdowns happened, we were initially worried we would get stuck with (these types of vehicles), but we’ve got the opposite problem and now risk running out,” the dealer said.

The average transaction price for these vehicles – either before or after accessories such as bull bars and tow bars are added – is in excess of $100,000. And that, of course, doesn’t include the cost of the caravan.

While many caravans can cost in excess of $100,000, the CEO of New Age Caravans, Ivan Krizman, says the average price is between $50,000 and $60,000.

Meanwhile, the Australian Automotive Dealers Association (AADA), which represents 3500 showrooms nationally, said: “We have heard reports from dealers about a shift in buyer tastes after the COVID-19 lockdowns … it seems for quite a number of Australians, their next holiday will be a driving holiday rather than travelling overseas”.