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HiLux uber-flagship to arrive next year

Toyota Australia says GR Sport not the end of the line, more HiLuxs to come in 2024

13 Sep 2023

TOYOTA Australia has this week launched its Rugged-X replacing HiLux GR Sport, the locally developed variant slotting above the HiLux Rogue at $73,990 plus on-road costs.


But according to local management, the eighth-generation utility – which is now in its eighth year of production – still has at least one trick up its sleeve; as well as a steady supply of regular variants.


Speaking to journalists gathered for the Australian launch of the HiLux GR Sport in regional New South Wales this week, Toyota Australia vice president of sales, marketing and franchise operations, Sean Hanley, said another ‘halo’ variant will join the HiLux range from 2024.


“Our customers have proven that these ‘halo’ models build and expand the unbreakable reputation of the HiLux,” he said.


“Over nine per cent (26,064 units) of HiLux sales since 2018 have been variants above the SR5, and half of those the Rogue … and we will have one more HiLux surprise in store for next year.


Mr Hanley would not be drawn on whether the new variant would offer another HiLux ‘flavour’ to complement the “Urban Adventurer” Rogue and sporty, off-road biased GR Sport, or if the model would bring more power to the line-up, giving Toyota a rival to the strong-selling Ford Ranger Raptor.


He told GoAuto that nothing is off the table, and that Toyota Australia remains committed to meeting the requirements of its local customers.


“This regular updating of our models shows how committed we are to meeting the requirements of our local customers. We are no longer locked into the product cycles of yesteryear. We are nimble and we are quick at getting cars to market,” he said.


“It’s a dynamic market, and we need to evaluate how this car (HiLux GR Sport) performs.”


Assuming the HiLux GR Sport indeed meets the sales expectations of Toyota Australia – which already has 1600 firm orders on its books – we asked Mr Hanley if consideration would be given to a more powerful alternative, possibly with Ranger Raptor rivalling V6 power.


“Right now, we don’t have the capability to offer engine development (within the Australian development program). That’s not to say that is totally out of the question, it’s just to say that for anything of that nature we would be relying on our parent company,” he explained.


“We are always looking at new models and new opportunities … and there is a desire within the market for higher-grade vehicles. The market is shifting so fast. Ute and SUV sales are continuing to climb, but I do think there is a ceiling as to where the market is prepared to go.


“And when we talk engines – at this point in time – we’re not necessarily looking to just four- and six-cylinder options. There is the potential for a BEV, the potential for an FCEV. It’s an interesting time, and we will be guided by what it is the market is wanting – whatever that is, we’ve got it covered … and we won’t rule anything out.”


In the here and now, Toyota Australia senior product planning specialist, Rodney Lyons, said the HiLux GR Sport was about continuing to broaden the appeal of the popular model among those with a recreational focus, while continuing to provide variants better suited to trade and agricultural sectors.


“It’s a really exciting time for us in launching the HiLux GR Sport. This is a vehicle that has been five years in the making – as a replacement for the HiLux Rugged X – and I’m proud to say it was a project that was born, bred and lead from here in Australia,” he said.


“Much of the testing and evaluation of the HiLux GR Sport was carried out here in Australia over the last two years with more than 100,000km at our proving centre in Anglesea, in the sand dunes in South Australia, the desert north of Mildura, and in the Victorian High Country. It is undeniably far more than a cosmetic exercise.”


According to Toyota Australia senior manager of marketing integration, Tim Stuckey, the HiLux remains one of Australia’s strongest selling vehicles because of its ability to meet the changing needs of its customers, noting a total number of some 1.25 million buyers since the nameplate debuted over 55 years ago.


“This is the latest in a storied history of HiLux that stretches back to March 1968,” he enthused.


“Over 55 years, HiLux has evolved through eight generations to become a byword for toughness, inspiring confidence in everyone who drives it – as well as being the national best-seller since 2016.


“HiLux has been the best-seller in WA for each of the past 15 years, in Queensland for 16 years in a row, and in the Northern Territory for 22 years straight.”


Reiterating the message of his colleague, Mr Hanley said customer feedback and demand had driven Toyota Australia to continue the expansion of its local range to ensure the line-up fit Australia’s unique conditions.


“Since we launched the first of our halo models back in April 2018, they have been snapped up by 26,000 owners or an impressive nine per cent of all HiLux deliveries. More than half of that total is HiLux Rogue,” he explained.


“But of course, it has been running a solo race lately, with more than 5000 delivered this year alone. That represents an impressive share of almost 13 per cent of total HiLux sales, and more than 16 per cent of HiLux four-by-four deliveries.


“We expect the HiLux GR Sport to be largely incremental with initial production set at 3500 units per year. But our build strategy gives us great flexibility if we need to adjust.”


However, Mr Hanley said he didn’t wish to see a HiLux GR Sport in every driveway, saying halo customers expected a level of exclusivity when parting with their hard earned.


“People at this end of the market want something special. We know that they don’t want their neighbours to be driving one. So, our conservative approach to volume will only add further to the appeal of this vehicle,” he detailed.


“Our decision to introduce models that sit above SR5 is having a halo effect on the entire HiLux range Not only is HiLux Australia’s best-selling vehicle for each of the past seven years, but its sales have also never been higher in more than half a century of service.


“In 2017, demand topped 45,000 units for the first time, and it’s been higher ever since. That includes a record 52,801 in 2021 and a new high of 64,391 last year. This year’s tally will be our fourth year above 50,000 units – which also confirms that production and supply of HiLux is indeed healthy.”

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