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Almost one in five new vehicles sold in Australia in 2023 have been a ute. The modern ute comes in a variety of shapes, sizes and prices, which has helped it evolve from functional tool to a desirable alternative to an SUV or sedan.
Currently the Ford Ranger and Toyota HiLux dominate the sales charts and have plenty of competition, from the likes of the Mitsubishi Triton, Nissan Navara, Mazda BT-50 and Isuzu D-Max - to name just a few.
But popularity only increases the number of competitors, and a new flurry of utes are headed our way in the near-future to give Australians even more to choose from.
Without doubt the most talked about new ute is Kia’s long-awaited entrance into the one-tonne, dual-cab market. Expected to be called the Tasman (although the name is officially unconfirmed) this all-new ute has been designed with Australia as a priority.
Kia Australia’s product planning boss, Roland Rivero, made it clear that Kia isn’t joining the ute segment just for the fun of it.
"We're not mucking around when it comes to the ute,” Rivero told CarsGuide recently. “We want to make sure that the first attempt at a ute from our brand is one that's going to do well in our market."
To that end it’s expected to incorporate a number of design elements and, critically, has been tested on Australian roads, to ensure it makes an impact on the local audience.
It’s expected to arrive in Australia by 2026 at the latest, but could be here sooner depending on the final stages of development.
Mitsubishi and Nissan have been ‘alliance partners’ for several years but the connection is about to begin paying off significantly with the next-generation Mitsubishi Triton and Nissan Navara set to share underpinnings. Sharing development should mean more investment into the new chassis, powertrains and technology, that will make both models more appealing to buyers.
The new Navara is still a little way off in the future, but we’ve already seen the new-for-2024 Triton and it shows several signs of the shared development. For starters the new Triton is bigger in every dimension, which means it will become a more direct threat to the HiLux and Ranger.
And it’s not like either model is particularly unpopular anyway, the Triton was the third best-selling 4x4 ute in 2022, so it should have the ‘big two’ looking over their shoulder.
To be blunt, the current Mahindra Pik Up isn’t much of a rival to the Ranger and HiLux duo, due to its simple construction and lack of refinement. But that could change in the not-too-distant future with the arrival of an all-new model, which the Indian company teased back in August.
The Global Pik Up concept is a much more contemporary and stylish proposition, which will reportedly hit Australian roads by 2027. Set to be built on the same ladder-frame underpinnings as the Scorpio SUV, the new Pik Up will also offer a diesel engine that should enhance its appeal with ute buyers.
The concept features loads of accessories for a tougher, more rugged look, but expect the core styling to transfer over to the showroom model. Given Mahindra’s pricing strategy of under-cutting its Japanese rivals on price, the new Pik Up could be a tempting proposition for budget-conscious customers.
The Chinese brand announced recently that it will introduce its second all-electric ute into the Australian market, a production version of the unfortunately named GST 4x4 Pick Up concept. This all-new model takes the lessons the brand learnt on the underwhelming eT60 and seeks to make an electric ute more appealing to Australian audiences. That means all-wheel drive performance, with electric motors on both axles, as well as new battery technology for a longer range.
It also sits on a new, larger platform, that means more space inside and a bolder, more aggressive exterior appearance.
While electric utes remain an untapped market in Australia, LDV has also hinted that a petrol or diesel powertrain is likely in the future, which would likely expand its appeal and pose a greater challenger to the Ranger and HiLux.
The threats from within. While the Ranger and HiLux have become firm favourites, there was no escaping the fact that Australia customers want something bigger. Strong and steady sales of the six-figure Chevrolet Silverado 1500 and Ram 1500 convinced both Ford and Toyota that they needed their own right-hand drive conversion business in Australia to sell the US pick-up trucks.
Both brands will likely put a brave face on it, but it’s inevitable that both the F-150 and Tundra will steal sales from the smaller utes, but as long as they stay within the same company that’s probably a trade-off management is willing to make.