The statistics tell a grim story. Commodore sales have almost halved in the past decade. Sales of the Ford Falcon have faltered more dramatically. For decades it was either No.1 or 2 in the country. Last month it was outsold by the four-wheel-drive version of the Toyota HiLux, the Toyota Corolla and the Mazda3
I had a look at the Green Star rating of a basic Commodore versus a 4WD Hilux. The Commodore rates 3.5 stars vs 2.5 for the 4WD Hilux. In the petrol variants, the Hilux is 25-30% thirstier than the Commodore.
We are told that consumers are choosing more fuel efficient vehicles, yet the statistics appear to be saying something else. Yes, the diesel version of the Hilux is more efficient than a petrol Commodore, but with the usual disparity in petrol vs diesel prices in this country, they would probably cost the same to run as far as fuel is concerned.
Buyers are not necessarily thinking green. Of course the Corolla and Mazda3 are more fuel efficient than a Commodore - but why are buyers stampeding to the Hilux?
Personally, I hate the Hilux with a passion. It has the ride qualities of an ox cart, the brakes of a Model T with wooden brake blocks, the steering of a supertanker and the internal ambience of a KGB prison cell. Whilst quite a few are used by tradesmen, more and more are being bought by males barely out of puberty who add a whole series of wanker accessories and then tear around with the same level of arrogance as BMW or Mercedes drivers - but without the road handling qualities of an M3, of the driving skills and situational awareness that comes with age.
I like the Top Gear test where they hoist a Hilux up with a crane and then drop it to the ground. That should be done more often, preferably with the cab stuffed full of Hilux owners, all sitting on seats made out of broken glass, freshly collected syringes from Kings Cross and a few lites of liquid nitro glycerine.
The Hilux though is possibly the closest thing we have in Australia to the US love affair with the "truck", which I always think of as a Ford F series, or a Dodge Ram type vehicle. Yes, we've long bought lots of Land Cruisers and Pajeros and things like that, but the Hilux and F series are a different kettle of fish. Are the young car buyers of today following the same trail that the yanks blazed over the last two decades, with a long term movement into a tall, aggressive vehicle with a tray?
If so, what does that say about the environmental commitment of our youth? Especially when one glance at these toggler-mobiles tells you that they are built for dominating and driving over the environment, rather than communing with it.