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Toyota HiLux to go five stars in 2013

Safety first: The 2013 Toyota HiLux will be fitted with upgraded safety features to ensure a five-star ANCAP rating.

Safety upgrade planned for ute king Toyota HiLux as business fleets turn up heat

29 May 2012

TOYOTA has confirmed it will upgrade its top-selling HiLux ute to qualify for a five-star safety rating from the Australian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) next year.

The technical upgrade in the 2013 model is expected to include electronic stability control (ESC) and side curtain airbags across the range instead of just high-end variants as at present.

Before then, however, the HiLux might have to endure the prospect of rivals making ground with fleets that increasingly are seeking five-star protection for their workers.

Mining giant BHP Billiton is the latest company to announce a blanket five-star NCAP policy for all vehicles purchased for its fleet, not just in Australia but globally.

Current-model light trucks from Nissan and Mitsubishi also face being struck from the buying list of such fleets, as the Nissan Navara – Australia’s second best-selling ute behind the HiLux – and Mitsubishi Triton – number three top seller – have only four-star ratings.

The HiLux, Navara and Triton are all pitched heavily to fleets, including the mining industry in which BHP Billiton is Australia’s biggest operator.

The BHP Billiton move is a major breakthrough for road safety campaigners, who have been pushing such fleet buyers to buy only the safest vehicles or risk occupational health and safety repercussions.

ANCAP chief executive Nicholas Clarke said the announcement would serve as added impetus for manufacturers to include higher levels of safety in both passenger cars and light commercial vehicles (LCVs).

He said LCV safety lagged behind other vehicle segments.

8 center imageFrom top: Mitsubishi Triton Nissan Navara Ford Ranger.

“This demonstrates the supporting influence big business can have on manufacturers and we encourage other businesses, large and small, to consider adopting a similar policy,” he said.

“With one third of compensable work related fatalities involving a vehicle, vehicle safety is paramount in protecting our employees, and investing in safer vehicles is an investment in the safety of these employees.”

The BHP Billiton move even outpaces the federal government’s own fleet buying rules for LCVs, which will require four-star minimum from July 1.

Toyota Australia public relations manager Mike Breen confirmed to GoAuto that the company was planning a technical change to the HiLux next year in a move that should qualify the vehicle for a five-star ANCAP rating.

He said Toyota had advised BHP Billiton – a major Toyota fleet customer – of the plan to upgrade the HiLux.

Other fleets that were asking for five-star ANCAP-rated vehicles also had been advised, he said.

Mr Breen said a “grandfather clause” was included in such fleet agreements, under which fleets continue driving the four-star-rated vehicles until the upgraded vehicles arrived in stock.

The HiLux received a major facelift in September last year, but Toyota did not take the opportunity to step up to five stars at that time, despite the arrival of competitors such as the Volkswagen Amarok, Ford Ranger and Mazda BT-50 with the top safety rating.

The pressure is about to be turned up with the arrival of the new-generation Holden Colorado, which is expected to breeze through the ANCAP crash testing regime for a five-star count.

Also among the beneficiaries of the mandatory five-star buying policy will be the Australia-made Holden Ute and Ford Falcon Ute, which were among the first LCVs to achieve the top rating.

The HiLux has been Australia’s top-selling ute for 15 years, even out-selling all passenger cars in Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory.

It has one of the most loyal customer bases of any vehicle on the market, partly because of its high re-sale values that are critical to business buyers.

Mr Clarke said a fleet buyer switch to five-star safety would have a positive impact downstream in the used vehicle market, where “mums and dads” ended up driving former fleet vehicles.

As GoAuto reported recently, three-quarters of passenger cars and SUVs already qualify for five stars, while only 18 per cent of LCVs made the top grade.

Of the 12 LCVs tested by ANCAP last year, only five received the maximum rating.

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