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Gone are the days when pickups were meant to be used by scruffy men doing a hell of a job in God knows where. Though pickups today have retained their indestructible image, where they go, what they do, and who drives them have gone through a world of change.

In the Philippines, pickups have long been known for their versatility on and off-road, indispensable for both business and recreation. And when it comes to pickups, the Toyota Hilux has consistently been top of mind.

And though it hasn’t helped the auto industry at all when fate threw a monkey wrench in the form of a viral pandemic just when it was in the middle of the so-called “golden era of motorization”, the pickup segment has just kept slogging away, thanks in large part to the vehicle’s inherent usefulness.

For Toyota Motor Philippines vice president for Marketing Services Department Elijah Marcial, who described the potential buyers of the new Hilux during its digital launch on Sept. 12, that usefulness looks more specific. “I noticed during the pandemic that a lot of hobbies came out. Many became plantitas and plantitos who also turned to baking”. Marcial was referring to middle-aged individuals who, perhaps out of the sheer boredom of being quarantined for so many months at home, discovered they had green thumbs and some skills with the skillet.

She continued: “I also saw in our village weekend corner market a parked Hilux that was made into a fruit stand. I think this new trend provides a great potential for Hilux as a secondary market. People still have their usual jobs, probably still go to the office, but they also have their hobbies transformed into a small business.”

30.5% segment share

That’s why TMP executives weren’t nervous at all during the launch. They knew that the updated 2020 Hilux wouldn’t run out of takers. And they were counting on history to repeat itself. In 2019, the Hilux captured a class-leading 30.5-percent segment share.

Assembled in Thailand as a completely built up (CBU) unit, the new Hilux comes with new iterations on looks, upgraded performance and features, and 4×4 Conquest and 4×2 Conquest variants, G AT and MT, and E MT. Combining these improvements with competitive pricing, the Hilux offers a hard-to-resist package that starts at just P1.1 million for the E MT variant.

The price actually goes down even more for just the cab and chassis purchase. Jose Maria Atienza, TMP senior vice president for Marketing Division, revealed: “We have more than a dozen variants for the Hilux, ranging from P840,000 for the cab and chassis to P1.8 million for the high-end one. This would show the range of Hilux which could be used for various types of activities, business and leisure.”

There’s one more variant coming up in October, the Hilux Cargo, featuring a windowless closed cargo hold ideal for small package deliveries. This more affordable variant will also be powered by the same 2GD engine.

Nico Bravante, TMP’s vice president for Product Planning, described the Hilux Cargo as TMP’s response to the “increasing demand for e-commerce and logistics. Because of the pandemic, we are trying to keep our affordability and prices a little over P900,000.”

Sherwin Chualim, TMP’s first vice president for Vehicle Sales Operations, and a proud Hilux owner himself, observed that he was pleasantly surprised at how the pickup segment remained strong even during the months of quarantines: “When our operations restarted sometime May or June, we thought that only entry-level Toyota models would be high in demand. We observed that even the Hilux could be considered models that gained quick recovery. The lack of transportation and need to transport goods and people during this pandemic has contributed to the increase in sales of the Hilux.”

He revealed that TMP is now offering free 20,000 km periodic maintenance for the Hilux, which he estimates is good for two years of a normal vehicle ownership.

TMP President Atsuhiro Okamoto set the tone for the new Hilux’s performance in the local market, when he declared, “I am confident that the Hilux would once again prove why it is the Philippines’ pick-up of choice. Tough on every road, every inch a Hilux.”

Cornering 13% of sales

Atienza disclosed that so far, 7,000 Hilux units have been sold this year. Taking into account that TMP has sold a total of 52,000 vehicles in 2020, Atienza estimates that the Hilux comprises over 13% of their overall sales. “We will sell about 5,000 (more Hilux units) for the remainder of the year,” he projected.

Atienza also said that history also drives the Hilux forward. “Through its 20-year history when we first introduced Hilux in the Philippines, it has grown from a niche model to one of the biggest-selling Toyota models.

“On top of that, we offer other advantages. With one price anywhere you are, including trade-ins, financing packages and free periodic maintenance supported by all the 70 dealers we have around the country, the total Hilux ownership package is unique,” Atienza stressed.

As for performance, TMP highlights the Hilux’s 5-percent improvement in fuel efficiency, due largely to the modifications done by Jeffrey Matsuo, TMP vice president CSO Technical Support Cluster, and his team within the engine bay, which include, to name a few, the piston ring materials and design, the turbocharger, oil tank, and most especially the increased fuel direct injection pressure. “These improvements will atomize and burn the fuel more efficiently, improving fuel consumption,” Matsuo said.

‘Tito’ buyers

Chualim described Hilux owners in greater detail. “Hilux buyers range from 35 to 45 years old, dominated largely by male and married customers. Our target customers will have an average monthly household income of P110,000 to P150,000 and mainly use it for city driving but also on weekends for leisure activities. I actually own one, and I use it to load anything and everything without worry because of its wide interior and rear bed. It serves my purpose of transporting people and goods safely and securely.”

The Hilux variants offer unique as well as shared features. The keyless entry is available for the Conquest, G, and E grades, with Conquest variants getting Smart Entry and Push Start System. All three grades also have power adjust with auto fold for side mirrors and speed-sensing door locks. Easily accessible information can be had with the 4.2” TFT multi-information display, and equally accessible controls with the steering wheel switches and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto compatibility for Conquest, G, and E grades. Cruise Control is available for Conquest variants.

The New Hilux 4×4 variants are powered by the 2.8L 1GD-FTV engine generating 201 horsepower (204 Ps) max output, 500 Nm max torque for the AT variant, and 420 Nm max torque for the MT variant with Intelligent Manual Transmission. Meanwhile, the 4×2 Conquest, G, and E variants get the 2.4L 2GD-FTV engine with 148 horsepower max output and 400 Nm max torque. Both the 1GD and 2GD engines are improved for the MC Hilux and enjoy a 5-percent improvement in fuel efficiency versus the previous generation Hilux.

All three grades come with SRS airbags (7 for the 4×4 Conquest A/T variant), 3-point ELR seatbelts, Anti-Lock Brake System with Brake Assist and Electronic Brakeforce Distribution, Vehicle Stability Control, and Hill-Start Assist Control. Conquest 4×4 variants also have Downhill Assist Control and Active Traction Control.

Clearance sonars are available for Conquest while back sonars are available for G grades, and the reverse camera is available for Conquest variants.

Aside from Conquest, G and E grades, TMP continues to offer the Hilux J in 4×4 and 4×2, Cab and Chassis, and FX for its fleet and business partners.

The New Hilux is now available in all of TMP’s 70 dealerships, while the Hilux Cargo variant will be available starting Oct. 26. For more information on the New Hilux, visit TMP’s official website at www.toyota.com.ph and follow the official social media pages at ToyotaMotorPhilippines (Facebook and Instagram), @ToyotaMotorPH (Twitter), and Toyota PH (Viber and Telegram).

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