Why Are Utes So Popular in Australia?
Utes are synonymous with the Aussie Outback. In fact, they’re becoming synonymous with pretty much everywhere, except city centres maybe.
Nonetheless, the popularity of utes in Australia is something most people will notice every time they walk out their front door – but why?
We find out.
- In 2021, Australia’s top two selling vehicles were the Toyota HiLux and the Ford Ranger with 52,801 and 50,279 sales respectively
- Since 2016, and every year since then, utes have been the top sellers in Australia
- Late model used popular utes like the Toyota HiLux, Ford Ranger and Mazda BT-50 see prices inline with brand-new models
- 4×4 dual cab utes are typically the most popular
- Utes and pickup trucks are different, but in Australia, “ute” covers them all
- Utes offer long-distance driving comfort, off-road ability and cargo capacity in one
Cars have a similarity with fashion – they follow trends. For example, in the 1990s, sedans, like the Holden Commodore and Ford Falcon, were king. These vehicles sold in huge numbers and filled the top two sales spots in the country for years.
In the early 2010s, something happened that hadn’t been seen for generations. Sedan sales slumped and the above two mentioned vehicles were knocked out of the list of best sellers in Australia.
It wasn’t utes, but small cars like the Mazda3, Hyundai i30 and Toyota Corolla that filled the void in the first few years of the last decade. Utes overtook small cars in 2016.
But it didn’t start there.
In Australia, the first ute actually came about in the mid 1930s when an unnamed farmer’s wife requested something “to go to church in on Sundays and could carry pigs to market in on Mondays”.
The result was a two-door chassis with a rear tray which Henry Ford himself nicknamed the “Kangaroo Chaser”.
In that regard, not much has changed as today’s utes are known for their ability to negotiate almost all kinds of terrain.
Ute or pickup?
Technically, a ute has an uninterrupted panel from the cabin to the rear tray and has a lower ground clearance.
In other words, a true ute is a sedan front with a rear tray.
A pickup truck, or pickup for short, has a separate cabin and rear tray, visible from the side. Furthermore, pickups generally have a higher ground clearance.
In other words, a pickup truck is an SUV front with a separate rear tray.
In Australia, “ute” covers them all.
They tick a lot of boxes for Australians
Long distances, rough terrain and supporting outdoor activities. It’s these boxes that need to be ticked to make an Aussie favourite and utes do a pretty good job.
Diesel engines are great for long distance driving, made more doable by remote petrol stations supporting trucks which also often require diesel. It’s not hard to find a HiLux or Ranger, for example, with 350,000km or more still criss-crossing the country.
Especially the 4×4 variants, utes are great for off-roading. You’ll only need to stop at one of Australia’s many bush towns to see a few utes in car parks and campsites – albeit covered in mud and dust. With their gear-carrying ability and high ground clearance, utes make excellent off-roaders, along with their SUV cousins.
Cargo capacity is another important factor for Aussies when choosing a new vehicle. With their increasingly large rear trays, utes offer a lightweight rig when empty and a solid cargo hauler when needed.
Most utes will easily accommodate a motorbike, camping gear, supplies and of course, tools.
They also have an added bonus of towing power with their relatively high torque figures.
Bigger, more powerful utes possibly. Australia’s love affair with utes is by no means slowing down, in fact it’s increasing with demand for American-style truck utes.
GMC’s Sierra 1500 and Chevrolet’s Silverado 2500, sold by HSV in Australia, are two examples of the huge USA utes gaining popularity on our roads.
To compare size, a current model HiLux maxes out at 5,345mm in length, 1,855mm in width and 1,815mm in height.
A Silverado 2500 measures 6348mm long, 2078mm wide and 2027mm tall.
Put another way, the Silverado is 19% longer, 12% wider and 11.7% taller. The HiLux is by no means a small car.
Oh, the Silverado’s powerplant makes 332 kw and 1233 nm of torque while the HiLux tops out at 150 kW of power and 500 Nm of torque.
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