Close your eyes and you can hear it. It’s coming from everywhere. Even the merest mention of a US pick-up and the whining starts. You know what I mean, the high-pitched baying…
“They’re too big!”
“Who needs one?”
“Why would you want to drive something that big?”
“Clogging up city streets in your silly big truck.”
All of which, quite frankly, is complete and utter nonsense. In the same way that a Lamborghini Aventador isn’t the right choice for a road trip into the remote Kimberley region of WA, or a Porsche 911 Turbo S isn’t a great work vehicle on a construction site, or a Tesla Model 3 doesn’t make sense for an inner-city dweller with no off-street parking/charging, US trucks don’t make sense for everyone – but they do make complete sense to many buyers, for certain tasks.
And now is the time for manufacturers to start bringing more of them to Australia.
Bleating that a full-size truck is a ‘stupid’ purchasing decision is no different to claiming that it’s stupid buying the aforementioned 911 Turbo S in Australia, where you will never get a chance to sample anything near its top speed. Or cornering prowess, or 200km/h to 300km/h acceleration ability.
Yet, people still buy high-end sports cars and supercars, and we respect them for it. The more the merrier, in fact.
Further, how many ‘regular’ dual-cabs (they aren’t ‘utes’ by the way, but that’s another debate) actually get used the way their makers intended? When was the last time you saw a brand-new Ranger Raptor, HiLux SR5 or Amarok Highline being properly beaten up off-road? Doesn’t happen anywhere near as often as their owners might like to think it would.
And yet, sales of dual-cabs show no sign of slowing. Regardless of the fact that even the best of the modern dual-cab brigade still come with a range of everyday compromises, Australians are still snapping them up in record numbers.
I was tempted to leave aside the debate about price here too, but... If you think that a converted US pick-up is way too expensive here, there are a couple of things you’re missing. You’ve never pulled a brand-new vehicle completely apart; you’ve never attempted to understand or engineer a right-hand-drive conversion (even on an old, relatively simple car); and you’re glossing over the way the sales process works in the US in terms of taxes and retail prices.
For example, the prices shown in the US exclude state taxes, dealer delivery fees and other on-road costs. So, add 10 per cent as a minimum to the advertised price, then add the equipment that the Australian distributors add as standard, and you’ll find that adds up to another $10,000 or more. Then do a currency conversion, ship it here and move the steering wheel to the other side, and you will see why local pricing typically costs $100,000 or more.
It wasn’t so long ago you would have read here on the site that RAM had just sold its 5000th converted truck in Australia. Think about that number for a moment: 5000. That’s 5000 Australians who have stumped up the cash to buy a full-size RAM truck, and if you head out to the rural fringes of any of our big cities, you can see why they have.
And guess what? Many have come out of Toyota LandCruiser 200 Series, or top-end Toyota HiLuxes and Ford Rangers, which with enough accessories can cost almost as much as a US pick-up.
Rural buyers have also embraced the concept. For most of them, they need their vehicles to work hard. While the payloads of some full-size trucks aren’t as impressive as some Australians would like, that’s got as much to do with licensing and GVM as it does capability.
Load most conventional dual-cabs up to their payload and things don’t go too smoothly either. So first up, a full-size truck will work its claimed payload pretty easily. If you do need to use the massive bed to carry gear around, a US truck will do that effortlessly.
Towing, though, is where they come into their own. Sure, you can fit a custom canopy and transform them into an amazing long-distance touring vehicle – but towing, and the ease with which they do it, is where it’s at.
Whenever we tow-test a full-size US pick-up, it’s so effortless as to be almost comical. Check out the video where we towed our CarAdvice Triton with a RAM 1500. Aside from a Nissan Patrol or 200 Series ’Cruiser, there is nothing that gets anywhere near this capability, and even with those two legends there’s a clear gap.
It’s a combination of the engine, the wheelbase, the weight of the truck itself, and the general stability that makes towing with a full-size truck so easy, but also safe. And if you’re doing that often, over long distances, safety is something you will value.
There’s nothing worse than rolling along the road with a trailer in tow, constantly worried about the effect it’s having on the vehicle. Plenty of builders and construction workers have to tow heavy trailers around town, too, so it’s not just rural buyers.
We had a great call from a reader a while back, who had owned three Toyota LandCruiser 70 Series dual-cabs. He lives out in the bush and tows heavy bore-drilling equipment. Even he acknowledged that while the 70 was undeniably tough as nails and capable off-road, it wasn’t too flash as a tow vehicle. If you’ve ever used a stock 70 Series to tow anywhere close to its limit, it’s pretty unimpressive, and even a Toyota LandCruiser 200 Series blows it out of the water.
Still, aside from buying another 70, what option did he have? His theory for needing a tray is that he has to carry an assortment of dirty equipment to and from site.
Shovels, waterproof clothing that is often covered in mud, his work boots, things he doesn’t want hanging off the trailer or in the cabin. Reasonably regularly, he even carries general farm equipment in the tray as well. So, a wagon is out of the question.
He told us that he hauled his trailer to the closest RAM dealer, where the (savvy) salesman let him test out a RAM 1500 with his trailer attached. And old mate was absolutely blown away by how easily the RAM hauled his bore-drilling rig. He’s still wrestling with his buying decision. He’s a rusted-on Toyota man, but he was clearly impressed with the effortlessness of the RAM.
Yes, it’s stupid if you live in the inner city to buy a full-size truck. The same as it would be to buy an Audi R8 Performance supercar and park it out on the street if you don’t have a garage. Or the same as it would be to have a completely modified Ford Ranger Raptor parked on the same street and never take it near a dirt road. We’ve all seen the latter, though, haven’t we?
RAM Trucks Australia shows no signs of slowing down, with 1500, 2500 and 3500 variants available, as well as the next-generation RAM also on the way.
Holden Special Vehicles has seen fit to add the Silverado in all three variants as well, satisfying 1500, 2500 and 3500 buyers with a range of models. Thankfully, despite the cost involved in the engineering – and simply carrying the stock – Aussies will be able to keep buying RAMs and Silverados for a while yet.
In the US on various work trips, I’ve been lucky enough to spend time with the Ford F-150 – both regular and Raptor – Nissan Titan and Toyota Tundra. Individually, they are all seriously impressive – and capable – trucks. The Titan and Tundra are trucks that would undoubtedly work here, while the F-150 is a no-brainer for this market.
Above: a Ranger (US-spec) and F-150 side-by-side, via The Fast Lane Truck on YouTube.
One of our readers made a good point about the F-150 in the discussion under a recent review, and whether it would cannibalise sales of the Ranger if Ford did bring it Down Under. While that’s a debate to be had, I’m not sure it would. Different buyer, with a different outcome in mind, I think. The way I see it, the F-150 would add to Ford’s market position. And I can tell you the current F-150 Raptor is an absolute cracker. It’s a sensational truck.
Sale volume is the issue that gets raised whenever this subject comes up, but I’d argue that’s for the local arms of each company to work around. There are manufacturers that make a business case for Australia on low volumes, and some of them are selling vehicles that aren’t in demand the way full-size trucks are. Yes, I understand that the US makers look at Australia as a backwater in terms of sales volume, but a case can be made. And that case can make enough money to make it realistic.
So please, Ford, if you’ve made it this far in this rant, can you please have a look at what your mates at RAM and Chevrolet are doing and bring us a damn F-150? Ideally a Raptor? Whether you make it a factory right-hand drive or a local conversion is up to you. But you’re missing out. And so are we.
The same message applies to Toyota and Nissan. C’mon guys. Work the business case. Run the numbers. Look at how many RAMs and now Silverados are already on the road, and how many Aussies are considering making the step up – there is undoubtedly a market for it.