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Is this the end of the Toyota HiLux and Ford Ranger's dominance? Why the 2025 Kia Tasman and BYD Shark shows Australia might have hit peak ute

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Kia has lofty expectations for its coming Tasman dual-cab ute.
Kia has lofty expectations for its coming Tasman dual-cab ute.

Some of the mostly hotly anticipated new vehicles due in the next 12 months are utes, but have they already missed the boat?

Ute sales surpassed 200,000 in 2023 but how much more growth can our market sustain, especially with the spectre of the Federal Government's New Vehicle Emissions Standard (NVES) hanging over the market.

This new legislation will penalise carmakers for being heavy polluters, hitting them with a fine for every gram of CO2 over the limit that decreases every year. This penalty is likely to be passed onto the consumer making them less desirable. 

In a market where regulators are trying to make us downsize and electrify it’s very likely that we have hit peak ute and we are on the cusp of a dual-cab Hunger Games scenario.

Kia broke the internet when it revealed it was preparing the Ford Ranger-rivalling Tasman ute with a flashy TV ad bejeweled with big name Australian stars.

The brand’s local boss Damien Meredith said in a previous interview the carmaker is aiming to carve out between 20,000-25,000 sales locally.

Kia Australia has taken the lead with developing the Tasman and the pressure to succeed is building.

Kia Australia’s head of product planning Roland Rivero has previously said the local team will have a say on every aspect of the new ute.

BYD's new plug-in hybrid Shark ute is another new dual-cab headed out way this year. (image: AutoDinamico)
BYD's new plug-in hybrid Shark ute is another new dual-cab headed out way this year. (image: AutoDinamico)

“It’s a different sport to every other product that has come to market in Australia,” said Rivero.“The number of visitors that have come from HQ, the vehicles that have been purchased by HQ and torn apart and looked into in every last detail. We are very grateful to provide this much input and feedback, but with that comes greater responsibility and accountability.”

“We’ve got a target we must achieve and have committed to with HQ,” he said.

Kia isn’t the only carmaker trying to slice off a piece of the profitable ute pie.

Chinese brand JAC just launched its value-focused T9 in Australia with prices starting from an enticing $42,662 (before on-road costs).

JAC already has a network of 50 dealers on the east coast and has mentioned a target of around 10,000 sales by 2026.

The Chinese brand is preparing to launch its new hybrid ute that is slightly bigger than its competitors.
The Chinese brand is preparing to launch its new hybrid ute that is slightly bigger than its competitors.

GWM - formerly Great Wall Motors - will launch its Cannon Alpha in the middle of this year. It is slightly bigger than a Toyota HiLux or Ford Ranger but not as big as full-size pick-ups such as the Ram 1500.

The arrival of the hybrid Cannon Alpha will likely result in an incremental increase in sales rather than tens of thousands.

BYD has also confirmed its plug-in hybrid Shark dual-cab ute will arrive before the year is out.

Head of the Chinese brand’s local importer Luke Todd has described the Shark as a hybrid, but not as we know it.

“It’s not a petrol car converted and had a battery stuck in it. These are electric platform vehicles that have ultra low emission and small combustion 1.5-litre turbo motors put into them to give people the best of both worlds, so no range anxiety,” he said.

The Ranger accounted for more than 70 per cent of Ford's sales last year.
The Ranger accounted for more than 70 per cent of Ford's sales last year.

“It is possibly the most exciting vehicle to come to Australia. It is everything you’d want in a ute and pick-up,” said Todd.

It is set to be followed by an all-electric version in 2025.

This is on top of the new Mitsubishi Triton that launched in March, which should translate to a boost in sales compared to last year’s results that were down about 40 per cent. 

It’s starting to feel very crowded and something has got to give.

The most likely scenario is Toyota and Ford will have their lunch cut and they’ll lose market share to more affordable and newer rivals.

The HiLux has been the default choice for many Aussies, but that could soon change.
The HiLux has been the default choice for many Aussies, but that could soon change.

Toyota can absorb the loss of HiLux sales thanks to its total market dominance but Ford’s star is hitched firmly to the Ranger and its success. The Ranger accounted for more than 70 per cent of the Blue Oval sales in 2023.

The new metal arriving soon could also lead to more established players exiting the market with a whimper.

Nissan’s Navara is in desperate need of a refresh and a new model isn’t likely to break cover until 2025 to lend a hand.

Isuzu’s D-Max and Mazda’s BT-50 are built on the same platform and while Isuzu has confirmed an electric D-Max there is no word on a battery-powered BT-50.

The coming mass diversification of the ute market opens the door to a new best selling vehicle in Australia in the future.

Dom Tripolone
News Editor
Dom is Sydney born and raised and one of his earliest memories of cars is sitting in the back seat of his dad's BMW coupe that smelled like sawdust. He aspired to be a newspaper journalist from a young age and started his career at the Sydney Morning Herald working in the Drive section before moving over to News Corp to report on all things motoring across the company's newspapers and digital websites. Dom has embraced the digital revolution and joined CarsGuide as News Editor, where he finds joy in searching out the most interesting and fast-paced news stories on the brands you love. In his spare time Dom can be found driving his young son from park to park.
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