On a recent trip to the Toyota mecca of Central Queensland, I was able to make a sensible observation or two.
This part of the world is Toyota mad, there are LandCruiser utes and wagons everywhere. Fuelled by the mining industry, the brand has enjoyed an authoritative presence on the back of having the right vehicles, at the right time. Throw in an unmatched reputation for reliability and the conditions were perfect.
It’s impossible to overstate Toyota’s dominance in this part of the world, for many, it’s not even a choice, buying a new car is as simple as selecting from the two LandCruiser body styles.
Regardless of how strong the foundations, even the Trojan wall was eventually breached. Driving around Queensland’s mining towns the first signs of a change are starting to sprout.
The change I speak of comes in the form of US pick-up maker Ram. There seems to be a Ram 1500 on every corner.
Ram’s local operation has recently announced the 5000th Ram truck has rolled off the production line in Melbourne. Of that number, approximately 3000 units were sold in 2019.
Now I understand these aren’t huge numbers, but every brand needs to start somewhere. When analysing the data, it’s worth keeping in mind Ram’s most affordable model, the Ram 1500, starts at $80K.
Full-size American trucks are obscene, antisocial and unnecessary. That was what I thought until I drove one.
At $80K, the Ram 1500 has struck a chord in LandCruiser country. In many ways, the Ram offers a compromise between the ute and wagon versions of the legendary Toyota.
After driving the Ram, it’s difficult to imagine spending a similar amount on the archaic LandCruiser 70. It brings the interior layout and space of the wagon to a ute body.
The LandCruiser 70 is a veteran of the Australian automotive landscape. Over time it’s developed a loyal following on the back of its capability and well-proven durability.
There is also something endearing about the 70’s style and driving experience, it’s pure, in an old school way. It’s easy to see why it’s popular in these parts.
Age eventually comes calling, and the 70 lacks the modern safety and connectivity options that are becoming more important purchasing criterion.
The LandCruiser 200 offers more in terms of comfort and convenience, but it’s also in its twilight. Buyers who have had a few are now experimenting with something different which is where Ram comes in.
Ram is also off the pace in some aspects, the Ram 1500 we get in Oz is the previous generation and it also misses out on the latest safety kit. However, for a similar price, the Ram 1500 offers far more comfort than the 70, comfort that gives the 200 Series a run for its money.
The success of the Ram 1500 has motivated HSV to convert the equivalent Chevrolet Silverado which should bring increased competition to what is a new market segment.
American trucks have long been a novelty Down Under, but the swing is now on. Ram has devised a package that has breached Toyota’s wall.
Buyers of Ram pick-ups can boast of something different in a sea of LandCruisers, though if Ram continues to grow at its current rate, they won't be unique for long.