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Record sales predicted for Toyota HiLux

Hot cakes: Supply of new Toyota HiLux into Australia will depend on how the new truck is received into overseas markets.

Toyota confident that demand for new HiLux will see 2016 sales top 40,000

22 May 2015

TOYOTA Australia is looking to the incoming HiLux to pick up where its predecessors have left off, predicting volumes that will match – and possibly exceed – those of its Corolla small car sales leaders.

The eighth generation of the category-leading ladder-chassis ute will launch locally in October with 31 variants – up from 23 – slated for sale. A high-performance version may be among the newcomers, as well.

One of the new variants that will be offered will be known as a Hi-Rider, which will feature the ride height and appearance of a 4x4, but without the front-drive components and transfer case.

Toyota Australia executive director of sales and marketing Tony Cramb also alluded to the possible introduction of a performance-orientated version of the HiLux, similar to the recent limited-edition Black variant offered for sale, but with more under the bonnet.

“There’s room (for a performance variant),” he told journalists at a HiLux preview event in Sydney. “We went down the TRD path (with a supercharged dual-cab 4x4 in 2011), and we’ve got nothing to talk about on that front.

“Clearly there’s a group of people – not a big group – that are interested in a vehicle like that, and we’d be silly to ignore them.” When asked whether the Black – essentially an appearance enhancement pack – would be the benchmark, he suggested that it would be “a bit more extensive than the Black”.

The shift in sales focus from sedans to SUVs and similar vehicles has not impacted Toyota’s mainstay Corolla line, but Mr Cramb foresees a time where the HiLux could regularly challenge the hatch and sedan range for the number-one spot in the sales charts.

“We’re not seeing it (erosion of Corolla sales) at this point. We’re going from strength to strength with Corolla,” he said. “We actually blew our plant apart last month – we were really surprised how many Corollas we sold.” The company moved 3238 Corollas in April, topping the national sales charts. The HiLux finished third overall with 2789 sales.

Mr Cramb said that Toyota’s research was showing customers were shopping for vehicles at wider ends of the spectrum.

“What you may find is a polarisation,” he said. “There’s been a move away from the traditional family sedan over the last ten years in V6s, and it’s started to happen in the medium segment, and they’re going two ways they’re either going SUV and workhorse car, or SUV and small car.

“That exodus (from passenger vehicles) seems to be almost done, and now it’s a matter of whether families start to move from the smaller vehicles into these (HiLux) kinds of cars.” While potential production delays won’t stop the HiLux from replicating the current vehicle’s sales levels in 2016, Mr Cramb foresees supply issues if the demand is higher than anticipated.

“I don’t think there’s any delays currently,” Mr Cramb told GoAuto. “I’m comfortable to supply the sorts of industry-leading volumes we were just talking about (approximately 40,000), but I suspect that demand might be a bit higher than that, particularly at launch, and I think we are going to be short.

“I’m more than comfortable we’ll get through what we can get, and I’m quite happy it’s a reasonable volume, given our position in the world, but I don’t think it’ll be enough.” Toyota sold 38,126 HiLuxes, in both 4x2 (10,807) and 4x4 (27,319) guises, in 2014.

Mr Cramb pointed out that worldwide demand would have an impact on what the local arm will be able to sell.

“Like all things in the car business, you’ve got to put it to market and see what happens,” he said. “It’ll be a huge success here, but how big a success it is in other parts of the world also has an influence, because there’s a total production run that we’re a part of, and we’ll have to see how that all pans out.

“But there’s definitely upside potential of 40,000, without supply restriction.” The HiLux is made in two plants in Thailand Samrong builds HiLux and its SUV equivalent Fortuner for the local market, while its Banpho plant in Chachoengsao builds HiLux for export to Australia and the Middle East.

With the arrival of new and revitalised competitors in the 4x4 pick-up space in the time the eighth-generation HiLux has been under development, Mr Cramb said that Toyota had noted the change of buyer’s sentiments towards 4x4 dual-cab utes.

“This market is changing,” he noted. “Traditionally it was a workhorse-based tool of trade vehicle, and that is changing over time. The customer base is now looking for now is a more family-orientated vehicle, as well as a working utility vehicle.

“As a result of that the market itself has grown dramatically. We’re attracting an almost SUV style of customer into these products, especially in the dual cabs. None of that was a surprise.” He noted that Toyota has done its homework, and the new HiLux will be a different product from the current version.

“We knew we needed to offer unbreakable characteristics, and the rugged unbreakable HiLux had to live up to its reputation, but at the same time it needed to gently move towards being a wonderful family vehicle, because that was clearly the customer direction and change that was happening at the time.

“(The new HiLux) is highly retail-orientated. This will definitely appeal more to the private base than the current edition, for sure, both in terms of specification and drive. We’ll get more families into SR5 dual cabs, for sure, without question.”

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