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Market Insight: Profits geared to utes
Aussies buy into the promise of 4x4 – just 15 per cent of utes sold in 2021 were 4x2
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6 Jun 2022
By NEIL DOWLING
IF YOU wonder why there are so many utes on Australia’s roads, the answer lies in the financial statements of car manufacturers.
They are, simply, money spinners. For example, Ford earlier this year built its 40-millionth F-series truck, which has for the past 40 years been the most popular vehicle in the United States. It has been on the market for 74 years and is in its 14th model generation.
Sales volumes alone are only half of the success story, as profitability of the simple work ute was dovetailed with strong marketing that made the versatile vehicle slip neatly into a lifestyle filled with leisure, family and work.
Backing this selling of the sizzle is family-focused advertising that dangles the carrot of adventure over the ute bed.
Pushing the adventure message is the burgeoning importance of four-wheel drive capability. Utes are increasingly selling as 4x4s, spruiking adventure for the family and dual-purpose use for the worker and the family.
Increasingly sharing technology with passenger cars – with a bit of a shove from safety and emissions agencies – as well as upping comfort and diminishing noise levels further improved acceptance across all potential owners and drivers.
In the 2021 calendar year, Australians bought 222,348 utes and cab-chassis derivatives. In perspective, that is more than combined sales of the popular small and light SUV markets (196,020 units in 2021).
Of the total, 189,617 utes sold were 4x4s while the once traditional 4x2 ute represented only 15 per cent of total sales.
Compare that to the year 2000 when 4x2 models had 54 per cent of the ute market. The trend toward 4x4s meant that by 2010, 4x2s were down to 38 per cent of the sector. In the first four months of 2022, 4x2s represent just 14.7 per cent.
No surprise that the Toyota HiLux is the most popular 4x4 ute – although there is a see-saw action with Ford’s Ranger sometimes in front – and both command a decent percentage of their brands’ total sales.
The HiLux 4x4 represents 19 per cent of Toyota’s total sales, but Mitsubishi’s Triton 4x4 is the most important single model in its Australian line-up with 61 per cent of the brand’s customers.
Like the HiLux 4x4, Mazda’s BT-50 is also relatively down on the pecking order, the 4x4 variants responsible for a modest 12.5 per cent of the brand’s sales.
The Ranger is Ford’s most popular vehicle in Australia with the 4x4 variant taking 33 per cent of all its model sales, while the Nissan Navara 4x4 has a 41 per cent of its brand’s pie.
Isuzu Ute’s D-Max 4x4 accounts for 45 per cent of the brand’s sales, a high percentage attributed both to the popularity – triggered by the multiple awards bestowed for customer satisfaction and value for money – and the fact the company only makes one other model, the MU-X SUV that is, like the D-Max, available in both 4x2 and 4x4 configurations.
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