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BACK IN 2008, Australians bought 1,012,250 vehicles and our
tastes at the time demonstrate just how much the market has
changed in a decade. Holden’s Commodore was our number
one choice, as it had been for the previous 13 years, and the
slogan of “football, meat pies and Holden cars” still had plenty
of resonance. Snapping at its heels was the Toyota Corolla and
Toyota HiLux in second and third place respectively.
But the popularity of SUVs was beginning to gain momentum,
and the most popular ones at the time – the Toyota Prado,
Subaru Forester, and Nissan X-Trail – were genuinely capable
off-road vehicles and less ‘urbanised’ than today’s SUVs. Ford’s
Territory range, launched four years earlier, was one of the first
of the new breed of large SUVs to gain any traction against
traditional 4WDs. Built on the Falcon platform, the Territory
was more user-friendly in the suburbs than a bulky 4WD.
Last year, total car sales increased to 1,189,116 and SUVs
overtook passenger cars for the first time, underscoring
changes in buyer preference. While the mix of vehicles has
shifted, many of the most popular vehicles still remain popular.
Holden’s Commodore, for well documented reasons, has
slipped out of the top three. The Toyota HiLux has replaced
it in first place, followed by its fierce competitor, the Ford
Ranger, at number two, and the Toyota Corolla in third.
Not surprisingly, Toyota dominates the current market,
with 215,566 vehicles sold last year – over 100,000 more than
any other carmaker. The HiLux and Corolla aren’t overnight
sensations, of course, with both vehicles playing an integral
role during Toyota’s formative years.
It’s no coincidence that light commercials and, particularly
dual-cab utes, prosper today. Toyota did much of the early
spadework, but the Ford Ranger was just 4365 units behind
the top-selling HiLux last year. The Falcon had been ailing even
before Ford ceased local manufacturing, and the Ranger was
just the right vehicle the Blue Oval needed to provide volume.
Dual-cab utes have evolved from the worksite, with
manufacturers figuring out that if they stretched the cabin,
reduced the tray size, replaced the vinyl floor, and added some
creature comforts, their appeal would broaden. Improvements
in active and passive safety were another big factor, and all
the market leaders now have a five-star ANCAP rating.
The wheezy, underpowered, old-school diesels have been
dispatched to the knacker y, replaced with more efficient high-
output turbo versions. These have done wonders for general
driveability, while fuel consumption for their size is reasonable.
The Ranger, with its torquey 3.2-litre five-cylinder, develops
470Nm from just above idle and has a 3500kg tow rating.
Along with better engines have come improved automatic
transmissions with more ratios. Offering an auto alternative to
the truck-like manual transmissions common a decade ago has
given the dual-cab ute much broader appeal.
The Corolla, meanwhile, just keeps on keeping on, and it’s not
luck that has made it the best-selling passenger car for the last
five years in a row, despite competing in one of the most crowded
segments. One of its tricks is that it has kept growing along with
the rest of the category, and the Corolla can comfortably take
four passengers and their luggage on more than a short trip. It
also does it with reasonable performance and fuel consumption,
and the Corolla’s chassis neatly balances ride and handling
without being a standout in either area. In the market for more
than 50 years now, it has a reputation for reliability and low
running costs that is the envy of the industry. With a dealership
never too far away, it also offers consumers peace of mind.
So how will the market look 10 years from now? With
manufacturers investing heavily in alternatives to the internal
combustion engine – such as hybrid, PHEV, pure electric and
hydrogen-powered vehicles – only a brave pundit would claim to
predict accurately. If history is anything to go by, then it could
be very different from what we see today.
Toyota dominates the market, with
over 100,000 more vehicles sold
than any other carmaker last year
The latest Corolla reflects
a more contemporary
(L-R): The Toyota HiLux,
Toyota Corolla and Ford Ranger
topped the 2017 sales charts.
OR0518_MOT_Best Sellers.indd 48
16/4/18 10:24 am
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