Toyota Australia's incoming Vice President of Sales and Operations, Sean Hanley, has all but confirmed that the Japanese brand is working on a performance-oriented version of its top-selling HiLux.
Speaking to Australian media, Hanley said there is an opportunity to take advantage of demand for tricked up utes down under.
Although not going as far as to officially confirm a new model was in the works, Hanley admitted the current HiLux lineup can offer more in terms of price and performance. He also said there was an “opportunity” to offer more than last year’s sold-out limited edition TRD HiLux which was predominately a cosmetic upgrade.
"When you look at that market, clearly we have a gap at the top of that segment," said Hanley. "It is clear to us we have demand for a vehicle that sits one step above where we are with the SR5, so… we’ve been able to fill that gap somewhat with the TRD version and we understand in the future we have to examine very closely what more we can do to ensure that our number one selling car continues to hold that momentum in the future.
"There is clearly demand and there is clearly an opportunity," he said.
Ford currently sells a high proportion of its flagship Ranger Wildtrak that sits above the HiLux SR5 in terms of price and equipment, and has confirmed an even hotter Raptor version will be released in 2018 with upgraded suspension, bigger wheels and more aggressive looking bodywork - a car designed to take advantage of demand swinging away from traditional V8-powered muscle cars to tricked-up utes.
As exclusively revealed by TMR last month, Ford’s Ranger Raptor will be powered by a new-generation 2.0-litre twin-turbo four-cylinder diesel engine and feature a 10-speed automatic transmission.
It is unlikely Toyota will make the same sort of changes to its driveline as the Raptor, but it is expected to offer similar upgrades to its suspension, bigger wheels and body work which will take inspiration from the Tonka car concept developed locally earlier this year.
Currently, Volkswagen’s updated Amarok, with a V6 engine, is the most expensive ute on sale in Australia, with the range-topping Ultimate version costing $67,990 (plus on-road costs). However, Mercedes-Benz is expected to break that benchmark when its Navara-based X-Class ute arrives, with the flagship X350d likely to command closer to $80,000 in top-spec Power specification.
The Toyota HiLux is currently Australia's top-selling vehicle, a position it is likely to retain when the sales results are tallied for 2017 at the end of the year.
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