28 December 2011 / Vehicles
1982 wasn't a bad year: the All Whites' incredible odyssey got them to the World Cup finals in Spain, a wee boy called Daniel Carter was born, Prince Tui Teka's catchy tune put Patea on the map, and Toyota Hilux became New Zealand's top-selling light truck for the first time.
Fast forward, and the iconic Hilux - a favourite of Kiwi farmers, tradies and television commercial watchers - is about to rack up its 30th consecutive year on top.
Official Land Transport Agency data to the end of November showed the Hilux in a familiar position, way out in front of the light commercial market, and jostling right to the wire with Corolla to be the top vehicle sold in New Zealand this year.
Steve Prangnell, Toyota's general manager Sales and Operations, says customer loyalty to Hilux has been a hallmark of the Kiwi workhorse from the late 1970s right up to the re-designed 2012 version released four months ago.
"Toyota's designers hit on a winning combination of rugged performance and reliability, and through seven model generations we have been rewarded with the trust and loyalty of legions of New Zealand light truck owners.
"Hilux is a mainstay of heartland New Zealand, with more than 86,700 sold here since 1976. Given it's going to be the 30-year anniversary of being number one, it's perhaps fitting to say customers think the Hilux is a real Kiwi legend."
Toyota had sold 3,680 Hiluxes by the end of November - 1,500 more than its nearest competitor - and expects sales to top 3,800 for the year. Worldwide, Toyota sells more than 500,000 Hiluxes a year.
"Having a full range, from two-wheel-drive flatdecks through to four-wheel-drive double cabs, and petrol and diesel options, means we have always been able to meet customers' needs. Toyota's 'local best fit' programme for Hilux means the version sold here is specifically intended for Kiwi drivers.
"The Hilux evolution has seen the addition of safety features such as air bags and stability control, plus a more modern interior and shape, but underneath is that famed unbreakable structure and design which has stood the test of time," says Steve Prangnell.
He says Hilux's famed television campaigns have helped cement the truck's status, from Barry Crump-era classics, through to Hercules the dog, the larrikin bulls, and this year's 'Steak n Cheese' sensation.
"A sense of self-deprecating humour is a Kiwi trait, and having some of the ads' catch phrases enter our colloquial language is something Toyota treasures."
Mr Prangnell says this year's sales performance is even more remarkable given two major blips in the year when the Japan earthquake and tsunami, then floods in Thailand interrupted supply.
"The ongoing success of Hilux for 30 years is a wonderful endorsement from our customers and we are humbled by their support and loyalty."