Toyota Australia's Tony Cramb with a HiLux SR5
Australia's best-selling car is no longer a car - it's a ute!
Toyota's "unbreakable" HiLux has made history by becoming the first vehicle other than a passenger car to be the country's best-seller for an entire calendar year.
As the top choice for Australian motorists in 2016, HiLux - which also set a new national record for 4x4 sales - edged out the ever-popular Toyota Corolla, which held the No. 1 spot for the previous three years.
The all-Toyota contest for sales supremacy went down to the wire with HiLux achieving 42,104 sales last year while local buyers snapped up 40,330 Corolla sedans and hatches. The history-making HiLux-Corolla "quinella" coincides with Toyota achieving sales leadership in Australia for the 20th time in the past 26 years, including the past 14 years in a row.
Toyota, which was the best-selling brand in every state and territory, helped lift the entire industry to a new sales record of almost 1.18 million vehicles in 2016, 2.0 per cent ahead of the previous record set in 2015. Local motorists bought 209,610 vehicles from Toyota dealers last year, 91,393 more than any other brand and a gain of 1.6 per cent compared with Toyota's sales the previous year. It was Toyota's best annual sales since 2013 and the 12th time the brand has sold more than 200,000 vehicles in Australia in a year.
Toyota was the only automaker to have three vehicles among the top 10 sellers in 2016 with Camry - which topped the market in December with 4,850 sales - in sixth position overall. Camry has been Australia's best-selling mid-size car since 1994.
Toyota Australia's executive director sales and marketing Tony Cramb said the victory by HiLux marked a significant turning point in the Australian automotive industry. "HiLux has made history as the first vehicle of its type to stand on top of the sales podium in Australia because it has broad appeal with the car-buying public," Mr Cramb said.
"The buyer profile has changed dramatically in recent years, with HiLux progressively offering the upmarket features and comfort demanded by families while maintaining its traditional popularity among tradespeople as the consummate workhorse," he said. "As recently as 2011, the biggest-selling variant was the 4x2 single cab-chassis in tough-as-nails Workmate trim - a vehicle where 'air-conditioning' meant you opened the windows.
"While demand for that variant has not diminished, and air-conditioning has been made standard, we now sell almost twice as many top-of-the-range 4x4 SR5 double cabs fitted with luxury features such as climate-control air-conditioning, keyless entry and ignition, satellite navigation and the option of leather-accented seats*. "In fact, shifting consumer preferences resulted in several 'firsts' in 2016: the SR5 was our biggest-selling HiLux grade and accounted for more than half all HiLux 4x4 sales; and an automatic transmission was specified by the majority of buyers."
Mr Cramb said the Corolla sedan would receive a facelift in the early part of 2017 while the Corolla hatch would receive a specification upgrade. "Corolla can hold its head high because, even though it was pipped by HiLux, it retains its crown as Australia's best-selling passenger car," he said.
Including HiLux (4x2 and 4x4), Corolla and Camry, Toyota led eight individual segments last year; the others were LandCruiser Prado, LandCruiser wagon, HiAce van and HiAce bus.
During its unbroken run as market leader since 2003, Toyota has sold in excess of 2.9 million vehicles in Australia - or more than one million sales ahead of any other brand in the same period. This equates to almost 250 extra Toyota vehicles being sold every single day throughout that period.