Doing Great: GWM has quickly secured a share of Australia's second-most popular new-vehicle segment – 4x4 utes.

UTE sales continue to hold strong in Australia but, while the leading Toyota HiLux and Ford Ranger remain untouchable at the top of the charts, underdog brands are gaining pace amongst the top ten sellers. 

The 4×4 ute market is a longstanding frontrunner Down Under, just behind the top-selling medium SUV segment this year, notching up 112,157 sales to the end of July against 119,926 medium SUV sales. 

Growth of the segment in 2022 has slowed compared with last year’s numbers, which saw the 4×4 ute market (117,744 units) ahead of medium SUVs (111,019 deliveries) for the same period.

The segment dip may in part be due to supply chain dramas, and widespread vehicle shortages, with popular ute options experiencing lengthy delays across the board and Ford’s popular Ranger going through a generation change.

While the 4×4 ute market has stabilised, underdogs within the market are fighting their way up the pack – particularly Chinese models.

Chinese models now represent five per cent of the Australian ute market, compared with just 0.4 per cent five years ago.  

As of July this year, GWM is sitting at number eight on the 4×4 ute sales ladder, up from ninth spot last year, while LDV dropped out of the top 10.

Leading Chinese ute-maker GWM represents three per cent of the 4×4 ute market, a major improvement over its 0.13 per cent share back in 2017, when it went by the ‘Great Wall’ name.

The sudden success of the brand coincided with the rebrand from Great Wall to Great Wall Motors (GWM), and the launch of its Ute model with generously specified Cannon variants.

In 2020, the brand sold 339 4×4 utes, before that number jumped to 4296 just a year later, when the Ute launched to replace the ageing Steed.

“The launch of the new GWM Ute in late 2020 was significant for GWM’s fortunes in the Ute segment,” GWM head of marketing and communications for Australia and NZ, Steve Maciver told GoAuto.

“Despite a number of months earlier this year where supply was a challenge, we have seen our Ute volumes grow to record levels. This is a strong indication of the level to which Australian buyers have warmed to the GWM brand and our new generation products including Ute.”

Mr Maciver said the brand’s success in the ute market, like all makes on offer, hinges on supply, but confirmed GWM is “quietly confident in securing the right levels of supply to secure supply growth”.

GWM benched the Steed for 2022, selling 3548 of its newer Ute model by the end of July, down 17 per cent from 2021 but still enough to score a top ten spot.

“Ultimately, we see more growth ahead for GWM Ute but know it doesn’t come easy in such a competitive market,” Mr Maciver said.

Meanwhile, LDV comes in at number 11 on the 4×4 ute sales charts, as of the end of July, down from its number 10 spot at the same point last year.

With 2121 T60 sales as of the end of July, LDV is down 64 per cent on the same period last year, but is still miles ahead of the Jeep Gladiator (932 sales) in 12th spot on the ladder.

As LDV gears up to launch its all-electric eT60 as early as November, its standing in the Australian ute market is likely to improve – but the proof will be in the product.

With a WLTP-rated driving range of up to 330km, it may be a hard sell for Aussies used to long-range diesel options that are ins ome cases capable of 1000km between trips to the bowser.

Another pitfall is the fact the eT60 is only available in 4×2 guise, and can only tow 1500kg, despite packing healthy outputs of 150kW/310Nm.

While Australian pricing is yet to be confirmed, New Zealand customers are paying $NZ79,990 ($A70,300) drive-away for the electric T60, so it is far from cheap and nudges into high-end diesel ute territory. 

Korean brand SsangYong went from a single 4×4 ute sale in 2017 to 718 sales by the end of July this year, although that is down 33 per cent on last year’s 1073 sales for its Musso 4×4 models, getting nowhere near the GWM Ute in terms of volume.  

Despite strong growth from Chinese brands, segment greats like the Toyota HiLux and Ford Ranger have been largely unaffected.

From July 2017 to July 2022, the Ranger achieved 35 per cent growth while the HiLux held its ground with 5 per cent growth across the same period.

Ford’s new Ranger model has expected delivery times of up to nine months for the high-end Wildtrak V6 variant, and closer to 10 months for the Raptor performance flagship.

The issue is so widespread that Ford decided to put a ‘new vehicle availability’ portal on its website, apologising for delays and offering estimated delivery times for popular models.

Strong growth came for Isuzu Ute with its workhorse D-Max, famed for its rugged no-frills reliability, achieving a sales increase of 72 per cent from July 2017 to July 2022.

A major sales bump came for Isuzu Ute in 2021 when it launched its latest-generation D-Max, first to offer an extensive active safety pack as standard on all model variants – combining modern tech with rugged reliability.

goauto, car reviews, road tests, first drive, driving impressions, market insight, market insight 2022

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