Market Insight: Sales of US iron strengthen

OUTLOOK for the popularity of the ute seems to be increasingly healthy on a background of strident development of battery-electric variants led by the majors – Ford and GM – as well as Ram, Hummer and new players including Rivian.

Tesla will eventually release its Cybertruck, and Volkswagen will revive the Scout brand with electric trucks and SUVs while other products from start-ups such as the Lordstown Endurance, Fisker Alaska and the Bollinger B2 may or may not see the light of day.

Most of the potential new players are designed for the US market and are physically larger than the utes typically sold in Australia.

These include the Ford F-150 Lightning, Chevrolet Silverado EV and Ram EV 1500 that are the same size as their petrol siblings.

Is that size just too big for Australia? Based on growing numbers of current petroleum and diesel US pick-up trucks on local roads, apparently not.

Demand for American pick-up trucks is growing faster than demand for the regular utes such as the Toyota Hilux and Isuzu D-Max. Ford Australia is also jumping on the bandwagon with factory-sanctioned right-hand drive conversions of its F-150 coming in 2023.

This year, Ram sales are up 35.5 per cent on the same seven-month period in 2021. Chevrolet, which markets its two-grade Silverado model under the GMSV umbrella that also includes the Corvette Stingray, has sold 6.8 per cent more utes in the same period.

Chevrolet achieved this uptick despite one Silverado version having a 34.1 per cent sales slide – from 1107 sales in 2021 to 729 sales in the previous seven months – because of supply issues.

This was balanced by the 303 sales of the new Silverado HD, which as the name implies is a heavier-duty version and the only one with a diesel engine, in this case a 6.6-liter V8.

Ram found homes for 2,998 units in the reporting period, the smaller and more affordable 1,500 model leading the sales with 2,580 units, or 86 per cent of the brand’s total.

Interest in larger Ram models has also been activated, sales of the 2500 at 384 units so far this year, up from only three in the same period in 2021. The 3500 is a new entry, selling 34 this year compared with none in the previous corresponding period.

Ram importer Ateco (which converts the left-hand drive vehicles to right-hand drive in Melbourne) told GoAuto that the increases are attributed to a facelifted version of the 2500 and 3500, and a strong dealer network of 58 outlets.

Also pushing interest in the brand is the high-performance TRX version of the 1500, which precisely reflects the strong interest in the big US trucks.

Ram offered only 300 units in the first batch and these promptly sold out. A second batch is on its way.

Ateco is also set to bring new Ram models onto the Australian market including its EV, which could be here in 2024.

The Jeep Gladiator is another in the large class that has enjoyed spirited sales. It is up 35.3 per cent so far this year with 932 sales.

The sales increases of Chevrolet’s utes (up 6.8 per cent) and Ram (up 35.5 per cent) compares with the performance over the same seven months of the Toyota Hilux (up 11.3 per cent); Nissan Navara (down 13.7 per cent); Mitsubishi Triton (up 26.6 per cent); Mazda BT-50 (down 13 per cent); and Isuzu Ute D-Max (down 3.5 per cent).