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News Room

What’s So Special About The Toyota Hilux?

Jason Snyman
2019-10-14
The Toyota Hilux continuously ranks among the world’s best-selling vehicles, and remains one of the most sought-after and searched-for second-hand buys. What’s behind our love affair with this rugged jack-of-all trades?

The Toyota Hilux has long held a special place in the hearts of gearheads the world over. Since its launch in 1968, over 18 million vehicles have been sold and, to this day, it remains one of the most popular vehicles on the market. 

Just last year, for instance, parking moguls Indigo UK used data compiled by Best Selling Cars Blog to give us the most popular cars in the world. According to their data, the most popular car in the world was, in fact, none other than the Toyota Hilux. 

According to that data, Toyota produces the best-selling car in 25 countries. The Japanese manufacturer has no less than 11 best-selling models in 54 different countries.

South African motorists love a good Toyota, and it comes as little surprise that the Hilux ranks right up there among our favourites. Between January and June of 2019, 20 918 units have been sold in South Africa alone, making the Hilux the top-selling vehicle in the country. The Ford Ranger emerged as it's closest rival - at 12 785 units sold.  

So, what makes the Hilux so special?

We’ve all felt that sudden rush of terror as we’ve looked up into the rearview mirror to find a Toyota Hilux with a Free State licence plate roaring up on us. 

Even the folks over at Top Gear are huge admirers. You may remember, they once attempted to destroy a 1988 diesel model by crashing it into a tree, assaulting it with a wrecking ball, submerging it in the ocean, setting it on fire and eventually – well, you’ll see. You can watch their futile attempts for yourself on Youtube in Part One, Part Two and Part Three.

The Toyota Hilux - or Truck Norris, as those witty Randfonteiners call it - is certainly one mean machine. Built to survive and designed to last, there’s little wonder why the world loves them. 

Toyota Hilux – The Poster Child For Indestructibility

In June of this year, Toyota assembled a total of 4770 Hilux bakkies at their factory in Durban for delivery to South African customers, marking the highest ever recorded number of Hilux sales in a single month, and reinforcing the vehicle's status as the most popular vehicle in the country.

Robustness. Reliability. Safety. Value for money. These are some of the attributes people love about the Hilux. Revered for its peerless off-road capability, the vehicle is widely respected for impeccable on-road performance, too. 

The Hilux is efficient, lighter on fuel than you would think and incredibly user-friendly. It’s the ideal vehicle for hard-working people such as farmers or builders (making it the most popular vehicle in Australia as well), but the level of luxury customization available these days also makes it appealing to everybody who simply appreciates a good ride. 

The Hilux is, essentially, the Nokia 3310 of the automobile world. 

They've always been built as body-on-frame vehicles, meaning that the body is fitted on top of the firm steel frame construction. This makes it stronger than most modern cars, where the body and frame are one. 

It has strength – able to carry anywhere from 860kg up to 1405kg in the tray itself. Underneath, 4x4 versions come with a number of heavy-duty protection plates shielding the major components. 

It’s pretty difficult to assail the invincible reputation of this vehicle. In fact, not even war could do it.

Even Terrorists Love The Hilux

The launch of the Toyota Hilux in 1968 happened to coincide with the ushering in of a form of Third World conflict the world had never seen before. The great unrest, an era categorized by revolt against authority. And so, unfortunately, the tough-as-nails Hilux was almost always destined to become the war chariot of the Third World. 

In fact, the Hilux is so frighteningly dependable it even has a war named after it (no kidding, it’s called the Toyota War) in which, during the final phase of the conflict between Chad and Libya, a Chadian army equipped primarily with Hilux’s outmanoeuvred, outdrove and indeed outgunned a far greater Libyan force armed with aircraft and tanks. 

About three years ago, US officials noticed that Toyota pickup trucks were showing up in all the videos of Islamic terrorist group, ISIS, in Libya, Syria and Iraq. Speaking to Newsweek, the US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defence for Middle East Policy said:

The Toyota Hilux is everywhere. It’s the vehicular equivalent of the AK-47. It’s ubiquitous to insurgent warfare, and actually, recently, also counterinsurgent warfare. It kicks the hell out of the Humvee.

This isn’t the only time radical terrorist groups have favoured the hardihood of the Hilux. Back in 2010, Ravi Somaiya of Newsweek pointed out that the Hilux has been featured in several extremist movements since the 60s. 

Scanning through images of world-wide insurgent warfare through the decades, the influence of the Hilux is prevalent. The vehicle absolutely dominates the landscape.

In 2009, the New York Times reported Somali pirates cruising the streets of Mogadishu, hanging out of the windows of their Hilux, guns in hand. In 2004, Sudanese fighters raised their arms aloft in the back of a Hilux. In 2000, Pakistani militants drove through a crowd in their Hilux, guns held high. 

Nicaragua, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Liberia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Lebanon, Yemen, Iraq – the list goes on. Everywhere you look, truck beds were loaded with heavy weaponry and cabs were crammed with radical extremists.  

The Hilux is durable, maneuverable, powerful, and is the ideal four-wheel drive vehicle for outrunning and fighting enemy soldiers. 

Of course, Toyota has a strict policy to not sell vehicles to potential purchasers who may use or modify them for paramilitary or terrorist activities. This doesn’t stop the terrorists from acquiring them, though, and it’s impossible for Toyota to track down all the sources. 

All Toyota is guilty of, is building a phenomenally great vehicle.

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