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Why ute sales are at an all-time high, plus 2021's winners and losers

We take a look at which utes are doing best in 2021, before showing how the market as a whole has grown since 2010

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Lotus Emira revealed, in Australia July 2022 with AMG and Toyota power
Lotus Emira revealed, in Australia July 2022 with AMG and Toyota power
Mike Costello
Mike Costello
News Editor

Australians love their utes, especially at tax time. In fact, during the course of 2021 total ute sales and market-share are both at all-time highs.

Instant asset write-down policies, superior products with greater comfort and safety, and less tangible aspects like changes in customer preference and self-image, have all conspired to make load-luggers the most-purchased vehicle type in the land.

The Toyota HiLux and Ford Ranger are the two top-selling vehicles in the country over the course of 2021 and were equally popular last year, while the Isuzu D-Max and Mitsubishi Triton sit sixth and seventh respectably. That’s four of the top seven vehicles…

Now since we’re just past the halfway point of 2021, it’s a suitable time to evaluate the market and discover the winners and losers among the load-luggers. From here on in, first-half sales will be shortened to H1.

VFACTS data supplied by car brands shows pickup and cab chassis utes with 4×2 or 4×4 drivetrains took combined 20.6 per cent share of the new-vehicle market between January 1 and June 30 this year, up from 20.1 per cent in 2020.

The lion’s share of this came from 4×4 models with 17.9 per cent overall market share versus 2.7 per cent for 4x2s. As such, 4×4 utes are the single most popular vehicle type ahead of mid-sized SUVs (17.2 per cent market share YTD).

Buyer data shows the majority of these were dual-cabs priced above $50,000, rather than vinyl-floored workhorses. Yet at the same time, cheaper China-made options like the LDV T60 and GWM ute are storming up the charts.

MORE: Buying a new commercial vehicle, temporary full expensing

This all means that from the 567,468 new vehicles sold in Australia this year, 101,597 of them were 4×4 utes and a further 15,263 were 4×2 utes.

Sales volumes of 4×4 utes climbed 34.1 per cent over the first six months of 2021 relative to the same period of 2020, against overall market growth of 28.3 per cent. Sales of 4×2 utes grew ‘only’ 15.3 per cent over the same period.

Top vehicle segments by market share

  • 4×4 utes: 17.9 per cent
  • Medium SUVs: 17.2 per cent
  • Small SUVs: 14.2 per cent
  • Large SUVs: 12.3 per cent
  • Small cars: 10.4 per cent

Top segments by volume growth (H1 2021 versus H1 2020)

  • Small SUVs: 80,622 versus 53,179, up 27,443
  • 4×4 utes: 101,597 versus 75,769, up 25,828
  • Large SUVs: 69,624 versus 52,113, up 17,511
  • Light SUVS: 29,332 versus 11,933, up 17,399
  • Medium SUVs: 97,635 versus 85,129, up 12,506

Of course, you all want to see how each model stacks up against one another, and takes bragging rights.

Here’s a table showing the 4×4 ute market over H1 2021, with the growth over H1 2020.

4×4 ModelH1 salesGrowth
Ford Ranger23,30733.9%
Toyota Hilux21,98227.2%
Mitsubishi Triton11,78142.9%
Isuzu D-Max10,682132.5%
Mazda BT-50711590.2%
Nissan Navara627239.4%
Toyota LandCruiser53969.5%
Volkswagen Amarok392410.6%
LDV T60333783.5%
GWM Ute3254New
RAM 1500188510.2%
Ssangyong Musso916142.3%
Chev Silverado 1500902New
Jeep Gladiator572255.3%
GWM Steed228-18.6%

The Blue Oval takes bragging rights over its Toyota nemesis in the lucrative 4×4 market. It’s daylight to the bargain Triton and impressive new (supply-constrained) D-Max, then a gap to the Mazda BT-50 (Isuzu’s twin) and newly facelifted Nissan Navara.

The Toyota LandCruiser 70 Series might be ancient and agricultural, but it’s still the dominant force out bush. Its edges out the performance-oriented Volkswagen Amarok which is overwhelmingly sold with the V6 diesel option.

The LDV T60 and GWM Ute are neck-and-neck in the budget stakes, while next is a contender at the other end of the scale: the Australian re-engineered Ram 1500 Hemi V8 that “eats utes for breakfast” according to the importer’s claim.

Rounding out the list are the under-appreciated SsangYong Musso, locally re-engineered Chevy Silverado 1500, utterly unique (removable doors!) Jeep Gladiator, and the now-discontinued GWM Steed.

At the other end of the scale here’s a table showing the 4×2 ute market over H1 2021, with the growth over H1 2020.

4×2 ModelH1 salesGrowth
Toyota HiLux609420.1%
Isuzu D-Max312355.3%
Ford Ranger202991.4%
Mitsubishi Triton13951.6%
Mazda BT-501250-16.1%
Nissan Navara10113.3%
GWM Steed361-33.6%

The trusty HiLux WorkMate dominates the cheaper 4×2 space, ahead of the Isuzu D-Max which also does well. Ford is banished to third ahead of Mitsubishi, Mazda and Nissan. The GWM Steed is about to meet its maker and be retired.

When we add together both 4×2 and 4×4 sales we get the following table.

4×2 and 4×4 ModelsH1 sales
Toyota HiLux28,076
Ford Ranger25,336
Isuzu D-Max13,805
Mitsubishi Triton13,176
Mazda BT-508365
Nissan Navara7283
Toyota Landcruiser5396
Volkswagen Amarok3924
LDV T603337
GWM Ute3254
RAM 15001885
Ssangyong Musso916
Chevrolet Silverado 1500902
GWM Steed589
Jeep Gladiator572

Top better place these figures in context, let’s look at the growth in utes – in terms of market share and volume alike – over time, measured at the halfway point of recent years.

The dynamic has shifted ever more towards 4x4s as the Aussie-made Ford and Holden utes were phased out and replaced in consumer psyches by diesel 4×4 dual-cabs, but overall ute sales combined are also growing by all metrics.

4×2 and 4×4 ute H1 sales and market share over the years

H1SalesMarket share

Previous monthly reports

Got any questions about car sales? Ask away in the comments and I’ll jump in!

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Mike Costello
Mike Costello
Mike Costello is the News Editor at CarExpert.
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