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Holden Commodore and Ford Falcon? Nah, Australian vehicle development is now all about utes like the Nissan Navara Pro-4X Warrior, Ford Ranger, Chevrolet Silverado and Ram 1500

Premcar has built nearly 1000 units of the new Nissan Navara Pro-4X Warrior.

Australia’s mass vehicle manufacturing might have disappeared alongside sedans Ford Falcon and Holden Commodore, but development skills have remained well and truly alive through utes like Nissan’s Navara, the Ford Ranger, the Chevrolet Silverado and Ram 1500.

Soon to hit a major 1000-unit milestone, Nissan’s flagship Navara Pro-4X Warrior is designed and re-manufactured by Premcar in the Melbourne suburb of Epping.

Taking the Navara Pro-4X as a base, Premcar’s team then need about 10 hours to graft a number of upgrades to the turn it into the Warrior, which is still fully backed by Nissan and even comes with the same five-year/unlimited kilometre factory warranty.

Changes over the standard Nissan ute include a winch-compatible Safari-style bull bar, beefed-up underbody protection, retuned and lifted suspension, wider track, all-terrain tyres and unique styling touches – all of which have been designed, tested and validated locally.

While the Pro-4X Warrior nears 1000 completed units, it still lags behind its predecessor, the N-Trek Warrior, which saw a run of around 1400 units from 2019 to 2021.

But Premcar won’t be stopping at just the Navara, as the firm has already confirmed plans to apply the Warrior treatment to the Patrol large SUV, and has hinted that there could be more to come from its partnership with Nissan.

Premcar engineering director Bernie Quinn praised his team for their work on the Navara Warrior program, while also highlighting Australia’s “world-beating talent” in vehicle development.

“We’ve been hard at work on Warrior 2.0 from almost the moment we finished work on the first Warrior, first in the design and engineering space, and now on producing what we consider to be the world’s toughest Navara,” he said.

“This is so much more than some kind of sticker pack. This is an extensively re-engineered vehicle that’s designed, engineered and built by some of the world’s most talented automotive manufacturing experts, right here in Victoria.

“That’s not just a win for Nissan, and for Premcar, but for the automotive manufacturing industry more generally. We have always had world-beating talent, and it’s so rewarding to watch them produce world-beating vehicles again."

Meanwhile, Ford boasts the largest automotive engineering, design and technical team in Australia, employing over 2500 staff in specialist automotive roles and spending more than $2.5 billion in research and development from 2016.

Undoubtedly the crown in Ford Australia’s engineering crown is the development of the current Ranger ute and Everest SUV, both of which are set to be replaced with new-generation versions in the near future that the local team has also played a vital part in bringing to fruition.

It’s no understatement to say the Ranger is Ford Australia’s most important model, being Australia’s best-selling model of 2021 and accounting for a staggering 70 per cent of the brand’s overall volume last year.

Suffice to say, there is a lot riding on the new-gen model, but the engineering team have been hard at work to try and deliver the best Ranger yet, with changes including a longer wheelbase and wider track, as well as room in the engine bay for potent V6 engines.

Like the outgoing Ranger, the new version will be offered in 180 countries around the world – including the US, China and UK – with each model carrying a little bit of Australia with it.

Finally, Walkinshaw Group situated in Melbourne’s Clayton South has its hand in engineering and remanufacturing not one, but two big American trucks for Australian roads.

Through GMSV, the firm imports the Chevrolet Silverado before disassembling and converting the full-sized truck to right-hand drive, while its partnership with Ateco Automotive under the American Special Vehicles (ASV) brand does the same with the Ram 1500.

Both models have been engineered to meet Australian Design Rules, and to quote the Ram Australia website “our trucks are manufactured in Australia, by Australians to meet Australian market demands”.

Just like Ford and Holden had to move with the market and ditch the Falcon and Commodore, so too it seems has the local engineering and development landscape moved on to more popular segments like utes and pick-ups.