The first Hilux pick-ups arrived in South Africa in 1969. This basic 1.5-litre short wheelbase model provided a very attractive alternative to the larger Australian and American pick-ups with their thirsty 6- and 8-cylinder engines that held the major share of the pick-up market at that time.
The Hilux enjoyed immediate popularity as an economic solution to light load transport needs, particularly in fleet and agricultural applications.
Within months of the first units going on sale the Hilux emerged as the pick-up of choice in South Africa and in 1970, its first full year in the local market, the Hilux became the market leader in the LCV sector. In the 34 years since then it has only four times failed to be the annual best seller- in 1969,1978, 1997 and 1998.
This phenomenal success has seen the Hilux entrench itself as the second most popular vehicle ever in South Africa after the Corolla, a situation that is not surprising as this top selling pick-up is Toyota Motor Corporation's second most popular vehicle ever, behind the Corolla.
A measure of this popularity is that in March 2004 worldwide sales of the Hilux topped 12 million vehicles with current annual world wide production running at over 500 000 vehicles.
Along the way to achieving this success in the South African market the Hilux has led the industry in innovation in the important one-ton LCV market segment.
In the process the single model range offered in 1969 has grown to a substantial range of 16 derivatives offered to local buyers and a further six unique derivatives produced for export into African markets outside of the South African Customs Union.
The first enhancement to the original range came in 1972 when a long wheelbase Hilux was offered for the first time.
In 1973 the second generation Hilux was introduced in South Africa. This saw the model range expand to provide a choice of four models powered by either a 1.6 litre or a 2.0 litre engine.
With the introduction of the third generation Hilux, in 1979, the choice widened further with buyers now able to choose from a range of seven derivatives.
A ?first' for Toyota was the introduction of a 4x4 model in the range- a feature that would open up a significant new market in South Africa. The inclusion of a 2.2-litre diesel engine in the model line-up was another first for Toyota in this market sector.
First double cabs
In 1984 Toyota South Africa introduced the fourth generation Hilux and with this range came the first double cab 4x4s to be offered locally. Again this would lead to the opening up of a significant new market segment within the one-ton market.
For the first time family recreational users could benefit from the versatility offered by a light pick-up.
Two years into this model range Toyota became the first manufacturer to offer a five-speed transmission on its 1-ton pick-ups. In 1989 this range was further expanded when the first diesel 4x4 1-tonner offered in South Africa was added to the Hilux line-up.
In 1991, celebrating the completion of 21 years in the local market, and recognising the potential of the recreational sector of the market, Toyota South Africa introduced the luxury specification Raider models to the Hilux range, expanding the choice to 14 variants.
This concept would be further developed over the years to provide class-leading luxury features for the Hilux.
In November 1997 a Hilux milestone was achieved in South Africa when sales topped 500 000 units in the local market.
A year later, in November 1998, the latest generation Hilux was introduced. Once again this new range offered the latest in LCV developments from Toyota and built on the solid reputation of the Hilux in the South African market.
The Hilux Raider models included in this range moved the goalposts out again with another list of firsts, this time focused on the development of the Hilux into a true multi-purpose vehicle.
The full-house specification on the Raider models included front airbags and ABS brakes on top of the line Double Cab 4x4 models - firsts for this market segment.
A host of other comfort features including sound system, electric windows, and air conditioning rounded off what is effectively an executive specification level.
Also at this time Toyota introduced its all-new 5L 3-litre diesel engine with extended service intervals. This would be the first time that buyers were offered a 3-litre diesel engine with a 10 000 km service interval in the one-ton market.
The popularity of this latest generation Hilux would see it rise to ultimate popularity as it ousted all comers to become South Africa's overall top selling vehicle in 1999.
The Hilux has continued to build on this success and at the end of the latest model cycle total Hilux sales in South Africa were 661 285. The Hilux has continued its reign as the second most popular vehicle of all in South Africa behind the Toyota Corolla through the first quarter of 2005.
Total sales of the previous generation Hilux were in excess of 151 000 from October 1998 through March 2005.
On October 3 2003 Toyota South Africa took on a daunting challenge when the company sent a group of eight Hiluxes, representative of petrol and diesel models across the product range, on a mission to set a series of South African speed and distance records for light commercial vehicles.
After 72 hours of non-stop driving at the Gerotek vehicle test facility Toyota claimed 89 speed and distance records for the Hilux to write the brand into South African motoring history. To date these records have remained unchallenged.
Among this rich haul of records set by these showroom specification vehicles, two stand out.
The Hilux 2700i averaged 160.009 km/h for the 72 hours, and the Hilux 2400D covered a distance of 9 990.5 km, just 9.5 km off the magic 10 000 km mark.
What makes this performance even more significant is that all laid down service requirements, including oil and filter changes, were met during the record run.
During its quest to better the magic 160 km/h barrier for the 72 hours, the Hilux 2700i topped speeds of 177 km/h and set a fastest lap around the Gerotek oval of 170.3 km/h.
The total distance covered by the eight vehicles during the run was 84 887 km. At times daylight ambient temperatures went as high as 37 degrees C and only momentarily dropped below 24 degrees C at any time during the run.
Since the 1980s the Hilux has been a strong contender in the South African national off-road racing series. The Hilux was a particularly strong in the 1989, 1991, and 1992 series when it was the overall championship winner.
For the 2003 season Toyota placed a renewed focus on Hilux factory entries in the off-road championship and ended the year as runner up in the Overall Production Vehicle category and winner of the Class E championship.
The success in Class E of the off-road championship was repeated in 2004. The Hilux was a vehicle to beat in the Production Vehicle category ultimately finishing as runner up in the series.
Toyota continues to evolve the Hilux with contemporary styling to match customer preferences in a dynamic market.
The proven formula of continually improving the product to meet South African needs with the overriding criteria of low whole life costs together with exceptional reliability and durability is a fundamental element of the Hilux success.
To celebrate the 35th anniversary of the Hilux in July 2004, a special edition Legend35 Raider range was introduced initially as a limited edition model with scheduled production of just 600 units.
Customer demand for this anniversary model range saw it become a full production model with 5 523 units ultimately produced.
The latest Hilux goes beyond the normal process of evolution of the model by setting new benchmarks in the class with a clean sheet design. The latest Hilux is better in every way. Bigger size, passenger car like comfort, more load space, improved safety features, latest generation petrol and diesel engines, and a continued accent on durability define this latest model.
Add to this a new level of affordability brought about by the new global manufacturing programme established for this range of vehicles and the winning formula is set to continue.
The latest Hilux has redefined manufacturing standards at Toyota South Africa as the company is fully absorbed into the Toyota Motor Corporation global supply network as one of four global manufacturing facilities for the IMV project of which the Hilux is the major element.
For the first time vehicle production of any one platform for export will exceed production for the local market with the Hilux as export production builds up during 2005 and into 2006.
Global production of the Hilux passed the 12 million mark during the first quarter of 2004. The introduction of the latest global model Hilux could see that number grow at the rate of over 500 000 per year.
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