An Australian bush icon will cease to exist within five years when tightening safety and emissions requirements force the discontinuation of Toyota’s long-running 70 Series LandCruiser.
The long-awaited availability of ABS brakes from October and an all-new dual-cab version also due on sale by year’s end will be the final additions to the aged 70 Series range before the popular ute, wagon and Troop Carrier line-up is killed off.
Toyota Australia Product Planning Division Manager Greg Gardner recently confirmed to motoring.com.au there will be no replacement for the 70 Series, which dates back to 1984 in Australia.
“There are no plans to replace the 70 Series,” he said. “Five years down the track it will probably peter out.”
Mr Gardner said the 70 Series range would continue to be sold while demand continued in its biggest markets, including the Middle East and Australia, where the 70 Series remains popular with fleet buyers including mining and agricultural companies.
More than 60 per cent of 70 Series sales go to fleet buyers, who in turn support a significant local aftermarket industry that fits rollover safety equipment to most mining company vehicles to meet OH&S requirements.
Sales of the LandCruiser ute were up almost 40 percent in the first half of this year, with no fewer than 4228 examples sold to June – representing 7.3 per cent of a 4x4 ute segment that is dominated by Toyota’s HiLux (24.1 per cent), followed by the Nissan Navara (21.3 per cent), Mitsubishi Triton (12 per cent), Ford Ranger (8.3 per cent) and Mazda BT-50 (7.5 per cent).
So far in 2012 the LandCruiser ute has outsold popular 4x4 utes including the Isuzu D-Max, Holden Colorado, Volkswagen Amarok, Great Wall V240, Land Rover Defender and Nissan Patrol, while a large proportion of the 5713 LandCruiser wagons to this year were also 70 Series models.
Mr Gardner describes the 70 Series as a “backbone” model that Toyota Australia cannot get enough of. “We sell as many as we can get,” he said.
However, all that will change in 2013 when Australian mining giant BHP Billiton, which is a major Toyota fleet customer, requires all vehicles purchased for its fleet - not just in Australia but globally - to come with a five-star (maximum) NCAP safety rating.
While the 70 Series will finally be available with ABS brakes from October, it will never be fitted with electronic stability control or side curtain airbags, without which it cannot achieve a five-star NCAP rating.
Toyota has confirmed it will upgrade its entire HiLux range to qualify for a five-star ANCAP safety rating next year, when stability control and a full complement of airbags will become standard across the range, rather than on selected premium models.
Toyota says it has advised BHP of the upcoming HiLux upgrade and is working closely with key fleet buyers to ensure the 70 Series continues to meet their requirements. Mr Gardner pointed out that ‘sunset’ clauses within the new BHP safety policy would allow continued sales of the 70 Series to BHP for an unspecified period.
A ‘grandfather’ clause within BHP’s strict new vehicle buying policy will allow its fleet purchasers to continue to buy HiLux models with a four-star safety rating until the upgraded five-star models become available, but it will not apply to the three-star 70 Series.
“The 70 Series is appropriately named because that’s when it was designed – in the 1970s,” said Mr Gardner. “It is what it is. It’s a light truck that deals in a specific market segment and meets the requirements of the buyers within that segment. The 70 Series is a heavy-duty off-road vehicle and people accept it for what it is.
“We’re working closely with the miners regarding the future of the 70 Series. We’re discussing a lot of those safety issues going forward and all HiLux models will be five-star next year. There’s still demand for the 70 Series. (But) It will gradually peter out.”
The same fate is likely to meet Nissan’s existing Patrol, which also dates back decades and also comes with a three-star ANCAP rating. The current Patrol will continue to be available in wagon and ute form beyond the launch of the new Patrol wagon early next year, although Nissan Australia says the model will continue on sale “indefinitely”.
Toyota introduced an upgraded 70 Series in March 2007 with a new 4.5-litre V8 diesel engine, while an updated interior comprising twin front airbags was fitted to all 70 Series models in September 2009. Similarly, Toyota introduced a facelifted HiLux in September last year, when ABS became standard across the range, and stability control and curtain airbags were made standard, but only in four top-shelf variants.
This is despite the introduction of all-new five-star Ranger, BT-50 and Amarok ute models this year, and last month’s launch of the redesigned Colorado ute, which was also awarded a five-star ANCAP crash rating this week.
The HiLux has been Australia’s top-selling ute for 15 years, and is regularly the top-selling vehicle – bar none – in Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory.
Other utes to come into BHP’s firing line will be the Navara and Triton – Australia’s second- and third-best selling utes – which currently both come with a four-star ANCAP rating.
Mr Gardner suggested the all-new 70 Series dual-cab - which will join single-cab/chassis (pictured), five-door wagon and Troop Carrier derivatives on sale soon – would not have been developed if Toyota knew how limited its life span would be.
“The (70 Series) dual-cab was designed before BHP announced its five-star safety requirement (in May),” he said. “We’ll do ABS from August production, but there will be no VSC for any 70 Series.”
One third of compensable work related fatalities involve a vehicle and ANCAP has encouraged other businesses to follow the lead of BHP’s safety policy, which steps ahead of the federal government’s light commercial vehicle policy. From July 1, all LCVs purchased by the Australian government are required to have a four-star safety rating.
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