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Market Insight: Ute buyer demographics shift

Mitsubishi says new data shows the changing face of light commercial ute buyers in Oz

26 Feb 2024

THE types of buyers getting behind the wheel of Australia’s most popular vehicle type is changing – and ageing – according to data supplied by Mitsubishi Motors Australia Limited (MMAL), perhaps indicating that only those with deeper pockets are able to afford a brand-new ute.


Speaking at the launch of the sixth-generation Mitsubishi Triton in South Australia earlier this month, MMAL staff, including general manager of product strategy and public relations Oliver Mann, reflected on the changing demographic of light commercial utility buyers Down Under.


In specifying the latest Triton for the Aussie market, Mr Mann and several of his colleagues studied data gathered over the past eight years which shows not only that utes are attracting a greater number of lifestyle and recreational purchasers, but interestingly older buyers who once opted for ute-based SUVs or large wagons to get out and see the country.


Taking in a significant overall sample size of more than 813,000 two- and four-wheel drive ute buyers across the full spectrum of Australian importers, the data indicates that while buyers without children – including both trade and recreational types – has remained largely unchanged while buyers with children have fallen slightly, leaving the lion’s share of new purchasers in the “more mature” buyer set.


Indeed, MMAL chief executive officer Shaun Westcott told GoAuto that family and older buyers now make up 42 per cent of all utility vehicles sold in Australia, followed by trade and agricultural buyers at 34 per cent.


The remaining brackets are occupied by large fleet buyers (15 per cent) and double income / no kids buyers (nine per cent).


“As the price of vehicles increases, the need for a vehicle to fulfill a variety of roles becomes more obvious,” he said.


“In the old days, a farmer or a tradie would have a single-cab ute that was utilised for work, and perhaps a sedan that was used for family duties. Those days are well and truly gone.


“We have identified that as a trend, and it is manifesting as a trend. Whether we are at the peak of that trend I don’t yet know.”


In referencing the date, we note that similar percentages of younger new ute buyers without children have fallen by two per cent over the past eight years from a high of 18 per cent in 2016.


A similar trend is noted for family buyers with children – which also fell two per cent from a high of 41 per cent eight years prior.


Mitsubishi Australia’s senior manager of product strategy Owen Thomson said research indicates the trend is one that has progressed steadily over the past decade.


“People appreciate the utility aspect of a dual-cab utility, and the dual-purpose nature of that vehicle is certainly changing, meaning they are appealing to more people,” he outlined.


“But there will always remain a certain number of buyers that need pure commercial models, and we can’t forget that.


“It’s one of the underlying challenges of these cars. They have to do the ‘work truck’ thing as well as fulfilling an ever-expanding number of roles for those other buyers.”


That ever-expanding role appears to include those hitching up a caravan for the obligatory lap of Australia.


Numbers of middle-aged utility buyers are mostly unchanged from those of eight years ago – steady at close to 24 per cent – while the number of more mature buyers getting into a ute is increasing, rising five per cent since 2016.

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