The Toyota Hilux has been around for 45 years and for 43 of them it has been the best selling bakkie in SA
Text: Gerhard Horn
The Toyota Hilux has been available in SA for 45 years. It has been the segment leader for 43 of those years, which is an unmatched accomplishment. It is to SA what the Ford F-150 is to the US.
It outsells all of its competitors by a significant margin. Toyota beats the Ford Ranger by roughly 1000 units a month and the Ranger is by far its closest competitor. For every Triton that Mitsubishi sells, Toyota sells 35 Hilux units.
South Africans love the Hilux, and with good reason. One could write a book on the subject, but in our opinion it’s the legendary reliability and toughness that make it such a firm favourite.
The story started back in 1969. The first Hilux units arrived in SA in the last quarter of that year and Toyota sold a grand total of 386 of them at R1525 apiece.
In the following year, Toyota sold 7380 units, making it the undisputed sales leader in SA.
The second generation Hilux came along in 1973, sporting 1,6-litre and 2,0-litre four-cylinder petrol engines. The wheelbase on this model was slightly longer than the model it replaced, which made for a more comfortable ride.
The sales figures for generation two reached their peak in 1975 when nearly 13 500 units were sold. These figures are made even more impressive when you consider that the double cab hadn’t been invented yet.
The third generation was introduced in 1979. This model is important historically because, for the first time, the Hilux was made available with a diesel engine. And this wasn’t the only first for the new Hilux. It was the first model to receive a 4×4 variant, which meant owners could now drive their bakkies wherever they wanted to go. It was the first time a 4×4 system had been offered in an LCV.
By now the Hilux was well on the way to reaching the 500 000 sales mark, but that would not happen until the fourth generation arrived.
Generation four reached SA in1984 and this incarnation of the Hilux is perhaps the most significant of all because it marked the introduction of a double cab. The innovation transformed the Hilux from a utility vehicle into a vehicle that a farmer could use for transporting feed during the week and taking the family for a picnic at the weekend.
Generation four soldiered on in SA until late 1997, where it finally reached the 500 000 units sold milestone. Generation five was not made available here, but in 1998 the sixth generation went on sale with either a 2,7-litre petrol or 3,0-litre diesel engine. This time around there was a clearer distinction between the utility Hilux and the models used as personal vehicles.
The Hilux double cab proved so popular that people started buying it as an everyday car, which meant that Toyota had to introduce refinements such as proper sound insulation, front seat airbags and ABS brakes. The 4×4 models also gained independent front suspension, which made them even more capable off-road.
The sixth generation vehicle will always be remembered as the car that kick-started the double cab revolution. Toyota built a double cab with all the features one would find in a saloon car at the time, and the concept grew to the point that we now have double cab bakkies with Bluetooth connectivity, heated seats and voice activation.
The seventh and current generation was marketed in 2005 and it received a major facelift in 2011. An Xtra Cab configuration was added to the range. This is currently available with a choice of three petrol and two diesel engines.
It has to be said that the current model is getting long in the tooth, but a recent 2000km drive between Kasane and Johannesburg proved to us that it is still a good bakkie.
Yes, the engines are outdated and it’s not the most advanced or comfortable bakkie on the market, but when you are travelling through Africa, these are not major considerations. More important are the vehicle’s reliability and toughness. In another car we might have been worried about something breaking off, but in the Hilux the thought never crossed our minds.
The Hilux gets the job done and that’s why it is SA’s favourite bakkie, and probably always will be.
A new model is in the pipeline and should reach SA by the end of 2015. To tide customers over until then, Toyota has launched the Hilux Legend 45, which is the same Hilux we know and love, but with a few cosmetic changes to differentiate it from other models.
Did you know?
Toyota’s press release on the Legend 45 included some interesting information. Here are our ten favourite Hilux facts.
- The only countries where the Hilux isn’t sold are the US, Canada, North Korea, South Korea and, oddly, Japan.
- The current SA sales figure stands at 969 933 units.
- The Hilux is built locally at Toyota’s Prospecton plant. Six generations of Hilux models have been built there.
- In 2003 the Hilux set 89 speed and endurance records in 72 hours at the Gerotek facility near Pretoria.
- The Top Gear television team tried to destroy a Hilux in various creative ways, but failed to do so. They eventually parked it on top of a building that was about to be demolished and it still survived.
- Toyota adopted the Legend name in 2003 to mark the Hilux’s 35th anniversary.
- The Hilux, albeit in Arctic Trucks specification, was the first car driven to the magnetic north pole.
- Toyota broke a world record for gathering the largest number of Hilux 4×4 bakkies in one place. A total of 495 Hilux 4x4s came together on 30 October 2010 in the Atlantis dunes north of Cape Town.
- Toyota has been sponsoring KykNet’s Boer Soek ‘n Vrou for seven seasons. So the Hilux has played an important role in helping 70 young farmers find a “true love”.
- The Hilux is an integral part of the Giant Flag Project — an initiative near Graaff-Reinet to create a huge national flag out of succulent plants.