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Australia’s importance in developing dual-cab utes with global aspirations has never been higher, with our expertise now called on for almost every model from every major ute brand in the country.
When Australia’s manufacturing industry crumbled — taking with it models like the Ford Falcon and brands like Holden, HSV and FPV — it was assumed we would simply take what we were given when it came to new-model launches.
And that's before you look at the work being done with Premcar and Walkinshaw in developing home-grown hero variants for our market.
It’s a form of local manufacturing, just not as we knew it. Aussie engineering and design know-how when it comes to dual-cab utes is making waves on the global stage.
Here are four utes which will draw— or already have drawn – on Australian expertise.
Australia is the driving force behind the Ranger — as it was with the previous-generation model — with the expertise from Ford Australia’s Campbellfield (Vic) HQ and the You Yangs proving ground near Geelong packaged and exported globally, including to the USA.
That expertise takes the shape of the new Ford Ranger and Raptor, the former led by Ford Australia chief engineer, Ian Foston, and the latter by Dave Burn, Ford Performance Chief Program Engineer for the Ranger Raptor.
“The bandwidth of how we’ve set the (Ranger) platform up is really testament to the confidence that the US Ford leadership team has in the work that has been done here in Australia,” Foston told us last year.
“We’re catering from what we classify as our lowest-cost of ownership customers with a Ranger that can do all the work things it needs to do, all the way up to what we’re now seeing is a more car-like luxurious experience, both in the Ranger and Everest in our high-end vehicles like the Wildtrak and Platinum (respectively).
“Plus, we’ve gone the other way as well in the performance side – so the fun side, the play side, with the Ford Performance Ranger Raptor.”
While not developed in Australia — with the exception of the upcoming Walkinshaw-engineered Triton Xtreme – Mitsubishi’s Japanese HQ has a laser-focus on our market, our driving conditions and the way we use our utes to ensure the next-generation model lives up to expectations.
As a result, Australia doesn't just have the biggest seat at the global product planning table, but Mitsubishi's high-ranking Japanese executives have also been doing reconnaissance on local soil to see exactly what Aussies want from their utes.
CarsGuide understands that Mitsubishi's global CEO, Takao Kato, recently toured Australia, asking to be taken to building sites to see how work-style utes were being used.
That real-world data will be fed back to the vehicle’s Japanese engineers to ensure the next-gen Triton delivers for Australia, and for the rest of the world.
Toyota’s long-awaited hardcore HiLux is being driven by the brand’s Australian arm, with the company here unwilling to simply adopt an international model, instead focusing on developing its Ranger Raptor rival right here in Australia.
”Thanks to the extensive involvement of our local designers and engineers, HiLux GR Sport is a fun-to-drive vehicle that will bring new capabilities and excitement to the adventure lifestyles of Australian customers," the brand says.
Details on just how involved Toyota's local teams will be are a little thin for now, but we'd expect the GR Sport to follow in the footsteps of other locally developed editions, in that Toyota will start with a finished HiLux example from Thailand before getting to work in Melbourne to add the GR Sport tough bits and any ride changes.
Volkswagen says Australia has “led the charge” with its new Amarok, with the brand embedding a team of more than 20 people in Melbourne to work alongside Ford’s design and engineering teams for its co-developed ute.
So much so, in fact, that VW Australia’s product marketing manager, James Thompson, says our comparatively tiny market holds “huge sway” when it comes to the size of its seat at the dual-cab table.
“For a market of our size, [that] is pretty amazing. But we've really led the charge on this. So we got involved kind of early 2019 in terms of having the first renders of the current generation and getting involved with a lot of customer focus groups across Australia in terms of the styling of the vehicle,” he told us.
“And we've had a huge impact with the design team that's been in Melbourne for three years or so, having been in regular contact with our head office, going through possible specifications, styling and stuff. So I think the Australian market has really been a key driver behind what we see out there today.”