None of the massive-selling American pickup trucks are produced there in right-hand drive. Yet for all that, demand for these monsters in Australia is skyrocketing, and manufacturers are finding ways to supply them.
Ram Trucks, Chevrolet and as of this week Ford have all found cost-effective ways to re-engineer their beasts to right-hand drive locally, to grab people who need more than their roughly 500mm shorter Toyota HiLux or Ford Ranger can give them.
There has been an industry for RHD re-engineering for some time (by the likes of Performax), but it’s now happening at a scale that’s scarcely believable, with full factory backing and all that brings to a customer in terms of ease-of-purchase, and reassurance.
North of 6000 full-size, nearly 6.0m-long American pickups found homes here last year, and further growth looks certain as more brands join the fray and share in the bounty.
When Ram Trucks Australia hit the market in 2016 as a joint venture between distributor Ateco Automotive and manufacturer Walkinshaw, it was a startup focusing on the heavy duty Ram 2500 diesel.
But it rapidly scaled with the introduction of the smaller and cheaper Hemi V8-powered Ram 1500, using hundreds of locally sourced parts at its round-the-clock eastern Melbourne production line. The tagline “Eats utes for breakfast” kind of said it all.
Now known as Ram Trucks Australia, the business is the only company that imports and distributes official export-spec left-hand-drive new vehicles directly from the Ram factory in the US, and makes them right-hand drive.
In 2016, Ram sold 292 pickups, and in 2017 it moved 398. But this grew to 723 in 2018 and spiked to 2868 in 2019, then 3320 in 2020, and a record 4025 units in 2021.
It now sells two generations of Ram 1500, the overwhelming top-seller alongside the brawnier 2500, called the ‘DS’ and ‘DT’.
The range is powered by a 5.7-litre petrol V8 making 291kW of power and 556Nm of torque, fitted to an eight-speed automatic transmission, with claimed combined-cycle fuel consumption of 12.2L/100km and a braked towing capacity of 4500kg – 1000kg greater than a LandCruiser, Patrol, or any of the mainstream diesel dual-cabs.
Pricing kicks off at $82,950 plus on-road costs for the base DS Ram 1500 Express Quad Cab, climbing to $95,950 for the Crew Cab, and $111,950 for the Warlock. The DT-Series starts at $123,900 for the Ram 1500 Laramie Crew Cab, topping out at $148,950 for the Limited.
General Motors Specialty Vehicles rose from the ashes of GM’s tragically defunct Holden brand with a national network, selling Chevrolet Silverados – likewise, re-engineered at Walkinshaw’s Clayton facility – starting in late 2020 under the GMSV banner.
While Ram Trucks Australia is an Australian-owned enterprise with Ram factory backing, GMSV is a division of the wider GM business, though to a customer it shouldn’t make much difference.
In 2021, GMSV reported 2118 Silverado sales.
Two Silverado 1500 variants are available, respectively called the LT Trail Boss and LTZ Premium.
Both use a naturally-aspirated 6.2-litre petrol V8 engine producing 313kW of power and 624Nm of torque, mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission, with claimed combined-cycle fuel consumption of 12.3L/100km. Like the Ram, braked towing capacity is up to 4500kg.
Prices are $106,990 and $114,990 before on-road costs.
Now Ford Australia has entered the fray, promising to bring the iconic F-150 here by mid-2023, re-engineered by global partner firm RMA Automotive at a new facility north of Melbourne, about 70km from the Walkinshaw factory in Clayton.
Ford makes no bones about the fact strong Silverado and Ram sales are behind its decision to bring the F-150 back to Australia after two decades. Sales of full-sized American pickup trucks have soared since 2018, and the Blue Oval doesn’t want to miss out on the action.
The car will be backed by a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty, and will be sold and serviced through the Ford Australia dealer network.
How many it will be converting hasn’t been confirmed (or revealed) yet, but Ford Australia boss Andrew Birkic made it clear the Blue Oval wants to sell the F-150 in decent numbers.
“We’re pretty confident in our truck,” he told media. “We are not coach builders,” he said. “This is definitely not a hobby.”
Ford will offer two models – the XLT and Lariat – in Australia at launch, both of which will be powered by the 3.5-litre twin-turbocharged V6 EcoBoost engine option, with 298kW of power and 678Nm of torque. Braked towing capacity is 4500kg.
A 10-speed automatic transmission is standard, along with switchable four-wheel drive.
What’s next? Well, just quietly market leader Toyota has said it’s eagerly exploring viable ways to bring the new Tundra to Australia, and since it shares much with the LandCruiser 300, it’s clearly technically achievable. If that happens, watch out.
“Toyota Australia is aware that the large truck segment in Australia has grown in popularity over the last few years and it is a segment that we are continuing to study and that we are interested in generally,” a company spokesperson told us.
“We have no announcements to make on the introduction of Tundra to Australia today and will continue to study its viability for the Australian market.”
|Chev Silverado 1500||Ford F-150||Ram 1500|
|Engine||6.2-litre V8 petrol||3.5 turbo V6 petrol||5.7-litre V8 petrol|