What Toyota Can Learn From the Hilux

UPDATE: In light of the new Chevy Colorado being released, we thought we would revisit this article about the Hilux.

While many U.S. consumers think that Toyota’s only compact truck is the Tacoma, there is another, the Hilux. Not only is the Hilux more popular than the Tacoma – Toyota sold more than 500,000 Hilux trucks world-wide in 2011 – but the Hilux also offers more configuration options, a wider range of engines and greater capability (depending on the model chosen).

Toyota Hilux diesel in a Tacoma

Here’s what Toyota can take from the Hilux and apply to the Tacoma:

1. A “Developing World” Mentality

In Thailand, you might see a Hilux with a van body being used to ferry tourists to and from the airport. In Panama, you’ll see a Hilux navigating an almost impassible jungle road. In Libya, you might see a Hilux with a rocket launcher mounted in the bed (image from FastMotoring.com).

Hilux rocket launcher

A couple Hilux rolling around with rocket launchers…road rage isn’t a problem in Libya, at least not for these truck owners.

The point? These are all the Hilux, but they’re all being used pretty differently. Toyota has positioned the Tacoma as a the “fun” truck and the Tundra as the “work” truck, but the fact is the Tacoma can do quite a bit of work. Why not position the Tacoma as a tough yet fun work vehicle, hauling bails of hay, bouncing around the construction site, or towing the family boat? Granted this might cannibalize Tundra sales, but so what? Toyota wins either way.

2. A Turbo-Diesel Engine

For quite a while, U.S. truck enthusiasts have been clamoring for a “baby” turbo-diesel to hit the market. Truck owners understand better than most that diesel engines are perfect for trucks – they’re more powerful and more fuel-efficient doing the things that trucks are supposed to. I.e., hauling, towing, and running off road. Automakers, on the other hand, have been scared. Toyota has promised to bring a diesel Tundra to the market, then – citing rising diesel prices and a supposed lack of demand (their perception) – Toyota backed off these plans.

But a diesel Tacoma with a powerful little 3.0L diesel engine, perhaps getting 25-30 mpg in the city? That seems like a fun, capable truck U.S. truck buyers would love. Considering that this is the exact same engine offered in the Hilux, it’s hard to comprehend why the Tacoma doesn’t have this option.

Frankly, Toyota seems to be more interested in building hybrids then selling a Tacoma with a diesel engine they already have. However, a recent AutoWeek story pointed out “Diesel sales have risen a whopping 35 percent in the first quarter of 2012, according to data compiled by www.hyrbidcars.com and Baum and Associates.” Maybe it is time for Toyota to reconsider this notion.

3. A Tougher Chassis

The Hilux is known for being one indestructible pickup. It is so well-known for this that the BBC show Top Gear filmed a series of shows where they tried to destroy it. In the end, the stocky suspension and beefy chassis of the Hilux was too much for all the Top Gear stunts and the Hilux kept on trucking.

Why is the Hilux so much stockier than the Tacoma? Easy – in most parts of the world, there’s no such thing as a “full-size” truck. The Hilux is the full-size truck.

4. More Configurations

Hilux cab chassis side dump

A Hilux with a side dump body – why can’t the Tacoma be offered in a cab and chassis?

The Toyota Tacoma and the Hilux both offer the single, extra and double cab options in 2WD or 4WD. However, the Hilux is also available with:

  • a cab and chassis, which means a Hilux can be outfitted to wear a van body, a flat bed, even a side-dump
  • both automatic and manual transmissions on every engine
  • two different diesels and three different gas motors, depending on market
  • 2500lbs+ of payload capacity (depending on configuration)
  • a factory-spec sport bar (seriously, why doesn’t Toyota offer this for the Tacoma?)
Hilux sport bar accessory

This sport bar is an official Toyota Hilux accessory in Australia – doesn’t anyone at Toyota think this will work on the Tacoma?

What do you think – what does the Hilux have that you wish Toyota would add to the Tacoma?