The gloves are off among the blue singlet brigade. There are unprecedented savings on top-selling utes.
Deals on pick-ups are historically strongest in June — but with a battle brewing in the annual sales race, tradies are now spoiled for choice in the lead-up to December 31.
After two utes topped the market in October for the first time ever, the Toyota HiLux has dropped to a new low price just 12 months after the latest model went on sale — $6500 off the full retail price of its flagship SR5 model, to $52,990 drive-away.
Customarily such discounts appear as a vehicle gets much older. Toyota has had to sharpen its prices because the Ford Ranger four-door 4WD has beaten the equivalent HiLux model six times in the past 10 months.
Adding to the pressure, Ford has released a discounted $49,990 drive-away version of the Ranger — which normally does not attract such savings — in an attempt to undercut the HiLux, Australia's favourite workhorse for the past 30 years.
Ford also now has free supply of the flagship Ranger WildTrak as 1100 vehicles are due to arrive before Christmas to try to fill every order on the six-month waiting list.
At the bargain end of the market, the Mitsubishi Triton is making life difficult for the mainstream brands with a red-hot deal that's at least $10,000 less than most rivals, at $35,990 drive-away.
It comes with a vinyl floor and there is no rear camera, no Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, no rear sensors and only four airbags (others have six or seven) but it still has a leather-trimmed steering wheel, cruise control and auto-up windows on all four doors. Its cabin and tray are significantly bigger than any other ute in the class.
VW has a five-year/ unlimited kilometre warranty on examples bought through its finance division. A four-door 2WD is just $29,990 drive-away.
The middle of the range BT-50 XTR is $47,990 drive-away for a six-speed manual; the flagship BT-50 GT is $49,990 drive-away.
But despite the massive upgrades and the sharper pricing, the new Holden Colorado isn't selling as well as expected, so more discounts are likely around the corner.
"The ute market has never been this competitive," says Toyota Australia executive director of sales and marketing Tony Cramb.
"Pick-ups these days are like family SUVs with a tray on the back. The nature of the product is changing."
Today's utes have most mod-cons and are more car-like to drive. "Pick-ups have been the top sellers in the US for some time, now that Australia is a more open market, things like this will happen," Cramb says.
Asked whether Toyota's discounts were a desperate move to try to win the new-car sales race in 2016 — the first time a ute would take such honours — Cramb says: "We're responding to the market. It'd be nice (if the HiLux becomes No.1) because it means Australians chose that vehicle more than any other. But No.1 is not a target. It's up to customers to decide."
So is Toyota concerned about Ford closing the gap to HiLux sales? Cramb says: "We have respect for all our competition."