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THE Toyota HiLux may be "unbreakable" but it turns out it's not "unbeatable". Australia's top-selling crew-cab ute for the past 35 years in a row is officially under attack.
The new Ford Ranger is denting the Toyota HiLux's domination of the ute market, chipping away at the mining business, government departments -- and doubling sales to private buyers so far this year.
Confidential figures obtained by Carsguide show the Ford Ranger has outsold the Toyota HiLux in government fleet sales, and is closing the gap in deliveries to mining companies and other businesses.
Last year Toyota sold approximately 2600 HiLuxes to state and federal governments compared to 3500 deliveries of the Ranger to the same agencies.
Even though Toyota recently updated its HiLux to a five-star safety rating (making it eligible for government and mining contracts) the Ford Ranger still leads in government sales so far this year (800 versus 500 in the first three months of 2014). The secret industry figures also reveal the Ford Ranger is closing in on the Toyota HiLux's lucrative mining contracts.
Last year, Toyota sold 16,000 HiLuxes to mining companies and other businesses compared to more than 11,200 Rangers -- a gap of 29 per cent to Toyota. But so far this year, Ford Ranger sales are only 21 per cent behind the HiLux (3500 versus 2700).
The news of the Ranger's inroads comes as Ford has released a beefed-up version of its pick-up to appeal to the mining industry -- and it's been made available to the public so that mining contractors, or private buyers with heavy-duty needs, can buy the vehicle.
The Ranger XL Plus gains underbody protection shields, mud flaps, a factory-fitted tow bar (previously only standard on the top models), running boards, heavy duty canvas seat covers, a second battery (80 amp hours), a larger wiring harness, 17-inch steel wheels with Continental all-terrain tyres and daytime running lights.
As with other Ranger models, the XL Plus retains the vehicle's 3500kg towing capacity. Black bumpers are standard but an ANCAP five-star rated bullbar is optional. Ford says the Ranger 4x4 XL Plus will be available in single-cab chassis ($46,280), double-cab chassis ($51,760) and double cab pick-up ($52,760) body styles.
All models come standard with a 3.2-litre turbo-diesel five-cylinder engine matched to a six-speed automatic transmission. The first shipments of the Ranger XL Plus are due to arrive in May.
Meanwhile, Ford says supply of the top-of-the-range Ranger WildTrak model has improved and the four-to-six-month waiting lists should start to come down. Ford dealers also report that the built-in navigation unit that was exclusive to the Ranger WildTrak will also be available on the Ranger XLT model from July.
A rear view camera is still not available as a factory fit item on any version of the Ranger except the top-line WildTrak, leaving Ford exposed as cameras become increasingly available on rival pick-ups.
In a media statement, Ford Australia Vice President of Marketing, Sales and Service, Graeme Whickman, said Ford worked with the mining sector and government agencies to develop the Ranger XL Plus. "These industries have very specific demands on their vehicles so that's why we created the Ranger 4x4 XL Plus," said Mr Whickman.
"It will be a popular addition to mining industry and business sector fleets but we also expect there to be strong support from private customers who have a particular need for this type of vehicle."
The Ranger was designed and engineered in Australia but is being manufactured in three continents and is sold in more than 180 countries -- more countries than have McDonald's stores.
All Rangers sold in Australia come from Ford's joint venture factory with Mazda in Thailand and are subject to a zero import tariff.