Along with SUVs, dual-cab utes are quickly becoming a family car of choice

They have the ride height of an SUV, the versatility of a tray, and the off-road ability of a 4WD. While vehicle sales are slowing (in line with the broader economic environment), ute sales are less affected than most other passenger vehicles.
The overall passenger car market is down, with almost 50,000 fewer vehicles sold compared to the same period in 2018. Utes and SUVs buck the trend however, with a decline of just 3.4 percent and 3.3 percent respectively. In fact, so far in 2019, almost one-in-five new vehicles sold were a ute, making them the second top selling category (just behind medium SUVs).
Looking back over the past two years of monthly sales figures, we can see some clear trends, with a clear peak in June each year, as buyers take advantage of end of financial year deals and incentives.
This is especially true for 4x4s, with many purchasers taking the opportunity to step up to a higher-grade model. The broader appeal here is reflected in the ability of these versatile vehicles to deliver to family needs, requiring fewer compromises when it comes to safety, style, performance and comfort.

Figure One: Monthly Sales of 4×4 and 4×2 Utes (VFACTS new car sales, Sep 2019)

Digging deeper, the changing model mix is also interesting. At the start of 2019, Toyota’s Hilux was clearly the biggest player. Over the course of the year however, Ford’s Ranger and Mitsubishi’s Triton have been aggressively competing and are now catching up. Looking specifically at 4×4 sales, the Mitsubishi Triton was September’s biggest mover, adding 2,755 sales to close on 17,000 for the year, and bumping the Hilux into third place.

Figure Two: Monthly Sales of Ford Ranger 4×4, Toyota Hilux 4×4 and Mitsubishi Triton 4×4 (VFACTS new car sales, Sep 2019)

The rest of the market beyond the top three is also highly competitive, with a number of less ‘traditional’ ute brands becoming more successful. Isuzu’s D-Max has moved into fifth place on YTD sales, Chinese manufacturer LDV’s T60 has collected almost 3,000 sales, and the Great Wall Steed has broken the 1,000 unit barrier, more than doubling its sales vs. the same period in 2018.
Looking at their unique selling points, beyond competing on price, the D-Max draws in customers seeking a reliable, no-frills product, the T60 was the first Chinese commercial vehicle to receive a five-star ANCAP, and the Great Wall Steed comes decked out with tradie-focused specs such as a big step bumper to allow easy access to the tray.

Figure Three: September YTD sales of Isuzu D-Max, LDV T60 and the Great Wall Steed (VFACTS new car sales, Sep 2019)

In summary, it is clear to see that the ute market is growing based on an ongoing level of demand. What does this mean for the aftermarket?
From a manufacturer and retailer perspective, there is a need to cater for an increasingly wide range of vehicles and models. Decisions need to be made around brand and range coverage to cater to customer’s needs. Similarly, workshops will need to be fully across the models they are most likely to see in their local area. This means that understanding your local car parc will be a key strategy going forward.
The AAAA will shortly be publishing the latest version of its Local Car Parc tool. The 2019 update will add historical data, allowing members to see how the car parc has shifted over the past five years, also providing a snapshot of the demographic profile of their area. This information can become a key input, helping inform business planning going forward.

This column was prepared for AAAA Magazine by ACA Research, our partners in the AAAA Aftermarket Dashboard which is delivered to your inbox each quarter.

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