Ford F-150, Toyota Tundra, Ram 1500 and Chevrolet Silverado take off in Australia, but are we really equipped for these American super-sized utes? | Opinion – Car news

It has been an important year for big utes in Australia. As the Chevrolet Silverado and Ram range continues to attract new buyers, Ford Australia announced it will start selling right-hand drive F-150 pickups in 2023, and more recently Toyota Australia has finally committed to bringing the Tundra Down Under.

There is a lot of logic behind these decisions, and there should be, as both Ford and Toyota are two of the most conservative and pragmatic car brands in the local market, so both brands clearly believe that the US car segment is a growing market.

Certainly, the success of the Chevrolet and Ram models – which start at over $80,000 and go up to over $160,000 – shows that demand for these American juggernauts is strong in Australia. In the first eight months of 2022, Ram has sold a whopping 3550 vehicles across the 1500, 2500 and 3500 models. General Motors Specialty Vehicles (GMSV) is lagging behind, but has still found buyers for more than 1,400 Silverados.

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So there is no arguing that there are a significant number of Australians who want to buy these types of vehicles. And we live in a capitalist democracy, so I’m not going to argue that people shouldn’t buy a certain type of vehicle – as long as it complies with all relevant traffic regulations.

But what I’m going to question is the purpose and suitability of such utes in Australia, because with more and more on the way it has the potential to have a major impact on Australian roads and infrastructure.

Why? Because Australia is simply not designed for these types of cars, while the US is. Large swaths of the US and its infrastructure are specifically designed to accommodate these behemoths – from lanes to parking garages and even fast-food drive-thru lanes.

The reality is that these American models really blur the line between what we consider a “commercial vehicle” and a small truck. No one could reasonably call a Toyota HiLux a small vehicle, measuring 5265mm in length and 1800mm in width. But the tundra will dwarf it as it measures 5933mm long and 2037mm wide – that’s an extra 668mm in length and over 200mm in width.

In the first eight months of 2022, Ram has sold no less than 3550 vehicles.

The Tundra is not alone, the F-150 is more than 670mm longer and almost 200mm wider than the already imposing Ranger.

I speak from personal experience in understanding the practical differences between the two countries and the way these vehicles fit into the environment. I have family in the US, who live deep in the Midwest truck country, where seemingly every driveway has an F-150, Silverado, Ram or Tundra.

The roads there are mainly laid out in grids, without the kind of natural topography that makes up Australian roads. This generally results in wider lanes better suited to cars that are typically 200mm wider than our more common crew cab cars such as the HiLux and Ranger.

GMSV has sold more than 1400 Silverados. GMSV has sold more than 1400 Silverados.

Car parks are one of the areas that really highlight the difference between Australia and the US. While Australian malls generally use multi-story car parks with tight turns and ramps, in the US (especially outside major cities) stores tend to be free-standing and surrounded by large, single-story car parks. This means they don’t have to worry about the height of these large vehicles and can often provide physically larger spaces for these wider, longer vehicles.

That’s not to say driving a Chevy or Ram is impossible in Australia, in fact they both have strong appeal and their own charms, but even experienced drivers take time to get used to and feel comfortable with their extra girth.

Ultimately, the message to potential buyers should be this: Does a Silverado, Ram, F-150, or Tundra really fit your life? Both in a practical sense (will it fit in your garage?) and in a holistic sense (do you really need a full-size, powerful American pickup if you don’t plan on towing or hauling a load in the back?).

The F-150 is over 670mm longer and nearly 200mm wider than the Ranger. The F-150 is over 670mm longer and nearly 200mm wider than the Ranger.

If you regularly have to tow more than 3500 kg, then one of these American cars certainly makes sense. But if you’re getting it for a less palpable quality, then you might want to pause and reflect on the realities of living with such a large vehicle in a country whose road infrastructure wasn’t shaped by them.

After all, it’s not the first time Australia has been unable to meet demand for US-sized vehicles.

In the mid-1990s, Holden attempted to sell the Chevrolet Suburban to Australians and found that the target audience was ultimately television companies using them as remote broadcast vehicles. In the US, the Suburban is used by parents to take their children to soccer practice or to go to the local Walmart to buy groceries. They can do that because the roads, parking lots and other infrastructure are designed to accommodate such large machines.

Ultimately, it’s a “horses for courses” scenario. No doubt many buyers will need the extra practicality these utes offer, but I’m not convinced that Australia is really in favor of a full-scale invasion of American pickups.

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