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Australia January 2018: Toyota and Honda shine in record market

The Hilux (+43%) helps Toyota to its highest January volume in 10 years.

* See the Top 15 best-selling brands and models by clicking on the title *

Australia starts 2018 at a record pace: January sales are up 4.3% year-on-year to 88.551 units, a new record for the month eclipsing the previous best of 85.430 established in January 2013. SUV sales have now carved themselves up a solid advantage, up 10.9% to 37.859 vs. just 31.890 (-8.7%) for passenger cars. Note that a year ago in January 2017, SUVs still had never surpassed passenger cars. Light commercials soar 20.3% to 16.776. 4×4 utes (local slang for pickup trucks) are up 26.6%, small SUVs up 25.5% and medium SUVs up 19.2%. Private sales are down 3% to 45.482, business sales up 17.1% to 36.772, government sales up 2.2% to 2.609 and rental sales down 22.3% to 1.662. The leading sources of vehicles sold in Australia this month are Japan up 5.3% to 26.846, Thailand up 19.5% to 23.482, South Korea up 7.7% to 13.732, Germany up 6.3% to 7.187 and the U.S. down 15.9% to 3.141. The ranking by State is as follows: New South Wales (Sydney) down 0.2% to 28.995, Victoria (Melbourne) up 5.4% to 25.961, Queensland (Brisbane) up 9.8% to 17.246, Western Australia (Perth) up 5.2% to 7.401, South Australia (Adelaide) up 3.5% to 5.314, ACT (Canberra) up 8.5% to 1.561, Tasmania up 6.1% to 1.418 and Northern Territory up 0.4% to 655.

The CR-V is up 167% year-on-year, propelling Honda to its largest share this decade.

In the brands ranking, market leader Toyota surges 21.9% on January 2016 to post its highest volume for the month since 2008 at 15.306. Mazda (+0.5%) follows with a strong 11.4% ahead of Hyundai up 6.2% to 8%. Holden, which had a record December fuelled by demo sales, falls back to earth in January: down 20.4% to 6.5%. Ford (-4.5%), Mitsubishi (+3.7%) and Nissan (-6.1%) follow while Honda soars 32% to 5.2%, potentially its highest monthly share in Australia this decade and Kia is up 12.9% to a record 5.1% share, beating the 5% hit last April and June. Notice also Chinese LDV up 154.3% thanks to the new T60 ute and D90 SUV, Alfa Romeo up 71.7%, Isuzu Ute up 39.4% and Jeep up 28.1%.

The CX-3 ranks at a record #9, helping Mazda to 11.4% market share.

The Toyota Hilux is the best-selling vehicle in Australia in January for the first time, surging 43% to a new record volume for the month, just as it enters its 50th year in showrooms. Like in FY2017, the Hilux is followed by the Ford Ranger up 24% year-on-year, but the Ranger wins in the 4×4 ute segment, although by just 12 units at 2.892 vs. 2.880. #1 in the country every January since 2012 due to its strength on the private market, the Mazda3 (-8%) drops to #3 this year ahead of the Toyota Corolla (-6%) while the Mazda CX-5 (+12%) reclaims the title of best-selling SUV in the country at #5 overall. The Toyota RAV4 (+28%) and Nissan X-Trail (-5%) follow at #7 and #8 respectively while the Mazda CX-3 (+6%) makes it three Mazdas in the Top 10 like in January 2017, equalling its record ranking at #9, also hit in April and July 2016. The Nissan Navara is up 63% to #10, the Mitsubishi Triton up 33% to #11 and the Honda CR-V up 167% to #13.

Previous post: Australia Full Year 2017: Toyota Hilux and Ford Ranger top record market

Previous month: Australia December 2017: Holden up 57.7%, Astra and Colorado hit records

One year ago: Australia January 2017: SUV sales only 800 units below passenger cars

Full January 2018 Top 15 brands and models below.

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Australia Full Year 2017: Toyota Hilux and Ford Ranger top record market

The Toyota Hilux is the #1 vehicle in Australia for the 2nd straight year. Picture caradvice.com.au

* NOW UPDATED with the Top 50 All-brands, Top 350 All-models and Top 50 All-medium and heavy commercial vehicles – click on title *

Consult over 70 years worth of Australian Historical Data here

The Australian new vehicle market marks a third consecutive all-time record year in 2017, up 0.9% on the previous record established in 2016 to lift it to 1.189.116 units. One of the most striking evolutions of the Australian market in 2017 is the fact SUVs outsold passenger cars for the very first time in history. With sales up 5.6% to 465.646, they account for 39.2% of the market this year vs. 37.4% a year ago. Reversely, passenger cars are down a steep 7.5% to 450.012 or 37.8% share vs. 41.3% in 2016. Light commercials, mainly composed of pickup trucks, are even more dynamics than SUVs with a 8.6% year-on-year gain to 236.609 and 19.9% share vs. 18.5% a year ago. Looking at sales by State, the most dynamic is Victoria (Melbourne) with deliveries up 4% to 339.343, with the next best performer being South Australia (Adelaide) at +1% to 72.426, Tasmania up 0.8% to 19.901, Northern Territory (Darwin) up 0.2% to 10.759 and Queensland (Brisbane) stable at 233.101. All other States are in negative: New South Wales (Sydney) down 0.1% to 397.273, Australian Capital Territory (Canberra) dow 1.5% to 18.540 and Western Australia (Perth) down 2.5% to 97.773.

The Ford Ranger soars 16% to a best-ever 2nd place in 2017.

Brand-wise, Toyota remains unreachable, even outpacing the market at +3.3% to 18.2% share, marking 21 years in the Australian pole position including the past 15 straight years. Toyota eclipses 200.000 annual sales for the sixth consecutive year and the 13th time in the past 14 years (record: 238,983 in 2008), keep in mind this is a milestone no other carmaker has ever managed to reach in Australia. Mazda remains in 2nd place – its highest ranking anywhere in the world – despite a 1.6% drop, while both Hyundai (-4.5%) and Holden (-4.2%) retract relatively significantly. Mitsubishi advances almost 10% to return inside the Top 5 most popular brands, knocking Ford (-3.8%) out.

Kia posts the largest year-on-year gain in the Top 20 at +28.3%.

Volkswagen (+2.5%) overtakes Nissan (-15.3%) while Kia posts by far the largest year-on-year gain in the Top 20 at +28.3% to hit another annual volume record (54.737) and ranking (#9). Honda (+14.6%), Subaru (+11.7%) and Isuzu Ute (+10.4%) also post double-digit gains in the Top 20 whereas Jeep (-34.5%), BMW (-15.7%) and Audi (-9.3%) are in difficulty. Further down, Great Wall (+270.6%), Haval (+148.3% for its first full year), Lotus (+100%), Chinese LDV (+68%), Maserati (+53.2%), Alfa Romeo (+48.7%), Ram (+36.3%), Aston Martin (+25.2%), McLaren (+24.7%), Rolls Royce (+21.6%), Bentley (+15.3%), Skoda (+12.4%) and Ferrari (+11.7%) post impressive gains. MG comes back to Australia as a Chinese brand and makes its first appearance in the official sales ranking at a discreet (for now?) #34 just below Haval.

The Mazda CX-5 is the best-selling SUV in Australia for the 5th consecutive year. 

In 2016, the Toyota Hilux became the first ever “ute” (local slang for pickup truck) to top the annual Australian sales charts. It repeats this feat in 2017 thanks to sales up 12% to break a new volume record for the nameplate at 47.093 and, in a first ever “ute 1-2” in history, is now followed by the Ford Ranger, up 16% to hit ranking, share and volume records. The Ford Ranger even snapped its very first monthly #1 in September., the first non-Asian nameplate to top Australian charts in over six years and only the 9th nameplate in the past 40 years to top the Australian monthly charts at least once. The Toyota Corolla (-7%), Mazda3 (-9%) and Hyundai i30 (-24%) follow but all decline, illustrating the exodus from passenger cars Australian car buyers are showing.

First ever annual Top 10 ranking for the Hyundai Tucson in Australia. 

The Mazda CX-5 celebrates five consecutive years as Australia’s favourite SUV thanks to deliveries up 5% to a new record, and reaching the highest year-end position of any SUV in history at #6. It is however followed closely by the Hyundai Tucson (+18%) breaking into the annual Top 10 for the fist time at #7 and also breaking volume and share records. In fact, the Top 5 best-selling SUVs all break their volume record this year in Australia and 6 of the Top 7: the Toyota RAV4 (+8%), Mitsubishi ASX (+7%), Nissan X-Trail (+0.3%) and Mitsubishi Outlander (+34%), the latter breaking into the annua Top 20 for the first time at #20. The Holden Colorado (+17%), Kia Cerato (+42%) and Isuzu D-Max (+8%) also hit all-time high volumes inside the Top 20.

The Toyota C-HR during a trip to the Australian desert we will report on shortly. 

Further down, the Honda Civic shoots up 109% to #23 thanks to the new model, the Holden Astra leaps up to #25 thanks to a new generation and even ranked to a nameplate record 2nd place overall in December likely thanks to dealer self-registrations. The Kia Sportage (+23%), Subaru Impreza (+1525), Mercedes C-Class (+22%), Subaru XV (+23%), VW Tiguan (+68%), Ford Mustang (+48%), Mazda CX-9 (+76%), Toyota Land Cruiser Pickup (+26%) and Mitsubishi Pajero Sport also make themselves noticed inside the Top 50. Even though it still lags well below its direct competitors the Mazda CX-3 ($#19) and Honda HR-V (#33), the Toyota C-HR (#55) is the most popular new launch in Australia for 2017, ahead of the Ford Escape (#64, technically launched in late 2016), Hyundai Kona (#93), and Audi Q2 (#108).

Previous post: Australia December 2017: Holden up 57.7%, Astra and Colorado break records

Previous year: Australia Full Year 2016: Toyota Hilux first ever “ute” to lead annual sales and The State by State best-sellers

Two years ago: Australia Full Year 2015: Mazda first full importer to #2 in record market and The State by State best-sellers

Full Year 2017 Top 50 All-brands and Top 350 All-models vs. Full Year 2016 figures below.

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Australia December 2017: Holden up 57.7%, Astra & Colorado hit records

The Holden Astra breaks a 16 year-old ranking record this month.

* NOW UPDATED with the Top 50 All-brands and Top 280 All-models – see title *

The November 2017 post has also been updated with Top 50 All-brands and Top 285 All-models

New vehicle sales in Australia are up 4.1% year-on-year to 102.820 units, leading to another annual record as we will report in a separate update. Australian December data is always heavily swayed by end-of-year manipulations by some manufacturers eager to meet annual targets, such as extensive demo sales or stock sales of cars that then appear in the second hand market early in the new year. This unmistakably leads to freak events: over the past couple of years, Toyota distinguished itself by placing the Camry at a very unusual #1. This time Holden stands out just as it ended local production a few months back, with deliveries up 57.7% year-on-year to 11.8% share. This is the first time Holden holds more than 10% of the Australian market since January 2015 (10.2%) and it hits its highest share since December 2011 (12.4%). In the remainder of the brands ranking, Peugeot (+236%), LDV (+117.2%), Mitsubishi (+33.6%), Land Rover (+25.4%), Kia (+20.9%), Honda (+19.2%), Lexus (+14.6%), Isuzu Ute (+12.7%) and Volkswagen (+12.5%) also shine.

The Holden Colorado hits record ranking, volume and share this month.

The models ranking bears the marks of Holden’s artificial year-end push: below the Toyota Hilux (-3%) posting its eighth monthly win of the year, the Holden Astra shoots up 23-fold on December 2016 to an incredible – because artificial – 2nd place at 3.533 sales and 3.4% share. Last month the Astra reappeared in the Australian Top 20 for the first time in 9 years (since February 2009) and this month it simply beats the nameplate’s 16 year-old ranking record and 12 year-old monthly volume records. The Astra’s previous bests were #3 (first reached in 2001, last in February 2005) and 3.359 sales (August 2005). This is the Astra’s first Top 10 since July 2008 (#8), first Top 5 since October 2005 (#5) and best market share since October 2005 (3.9%). The Astra’s highest annual ranking in Australia so far is #4 in 2001, at a time when the Holden Commodore and Ford Falcon obliterated the sales charts.

Holden has another record on its hands with the Colorado ute: up 166% year-on-year to #4 with 3.222 sales and 3.1% share, these are all new records for ranking (previous best: #8 in April 2017), volume (pb: 2.411 in June 2017) and share (pb 2.2% in April 2017). This year, the Colorado breaks its annual volume record (21.579), share record (1.8%) and equals its annual ranking record (#11, also hit in 2015). In other news, the Colorado makes it three utes (local slang for pickup trucks) in the Top 4 with the Mitsubishi Triton up 26% to #6 making it four in the Top 6. The Mitsubishi ASX is up 43% to remain at #9, the Honda Civic is up 64% to #15, Toyota Prado up 33% to #16, Mitsubishi Outlander up 32% to #17, Nissan Navara up 50% to #18 but the Hyundai i30 implodes down 48% to #19.

Previous month: Australia November 2017: All-time high November = annual record likely

Full December 2017 Top 50 All-brands and Top 280 All-models rankings below.

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Australia: 1984-2017 Nameplates records now available

Holden Commodore SS Australia 1998The Holden Commodore sold a record 94.642 units in Australia in 1998.

* See the Top 75 most successful nameplates in Australia by clicking on the title *

This ranking has now been updated with 2017 figures and official sales data spanning the past 34 years. Thanks to a new volume record, the Toyota Hilux leaps from #6 to #4 most popular nameplate over the period in Australia below just the Holden Commodore, Ford Falcon and Toyota Corolla and leapfrogging the Mazda3 and Hyundai Excel. The Hilux is now 900 units away from becoming the most popular Toyota ever in Australia annual volume-wise. The Ford Ranger for its part jumps from #10 to #7 thanks to new volume, share and ranking records. The Mazda CX-5 breaks its volume and ranking records, the Hyundai Tucson breaks all records, with the Holden Colorado, Toyota RAV4, Mitsubishi ASX, Nissan X-Trail, Kia Cerato, Isuzu D-Max and Mitsubishi Outlander also hitting all-time high volumes in 2017.

Consult over 70 years worth of Australian Historical Data here

Toyota Hilux Australia 2016. Picture courtesy of caradvice.com.auThe Ford Ranger is only the 5th nameplate to rank #1 in the past 33 years.

The original post starts here: Now that year-end detailed models rankings for Australia are available without interruption since 1984, I can give you a summary of the most popular nameplates over the period. They are ranked by yearly volume record, with info on their record market share and position also included. No surprise on top: the Holden Commodore holds the nameplate all-time record with 94.642 units sold in 1998. It’s fair to say that this record is in safe hands: with the fragmentation of the market, last year’s leader has sold just under 44.000 units.

The Ford Falcon holds the Australian market share record in the past 30 years at 15.3%.

Note that the Commodore’s market share record is a nowadays-impossible 12.8% reached in 1996, while the Ford Falcon, whose volume record was reached in 1995 (81.366), holds the all-time market share record at 15.3% in 1987. The Toyota Corolla is the third most popular nameplate in Australia over the past 34 years with a record of 47.901 sales in 2008. The Mazda3 follows, ahead of the Hyundai Excel, Toyota Hilux and Camry and Mitsubishi Magna.

Toyota Corolla in Broken Hill, Australia – April 2008

See the Top 50 most successful nameplates in Australia in 1984-2017 below.

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Photo Report: Driving a Tesla Model X along the Australian East Coast

Kangaroo meets Tesla Model X

Two and a half years ago, I test drove the Tesla Model S and had one thing to say: believe the hype. This time around I want to take the Model X on a longer trip to also evaluate the burgeoning network of charging stations around Australia. Although Tesla won’t communicate sales figures for Australia, anecdotal spotting on the streets and a recall earlier this year indicate the American manufacturer has already sold north of 1.500 units in the country, a real success. Worldwide, the Tesla Model X is simply one of the top selling electric vehicles, up there with the Nissan Leaf, Tesla Model S, BYD Qin and BAIC EC-Series. There is one Telsa store in Sydney, located in the northern suburb of St Leonards, “north of the bridge” as Sydneysiders would say.

Taking stock of the beastOur itinerary: Sydney to Byron Bay and back, covering 1.765km / 1.100miMikey posing next to the Big Banana in Coffs Harbour

Don’t get me wrong, getting such an impressive car on the road is an impressive feat in itself. It’s a car for early adopters, the kind of buyers that don’t bat an eyelid when learning the Model X’s price tag. According to the spec sheets sent by Tesla PR, this is a Model X P100D and it comes in at a demoralising AUD 278.025 (US$209.000, 177.400€), including AUD 43.612 worth of Luxury Car Tax, a local specialty. That’s double the price of the Model S I tested before and an awful lot of money indeed. The base price is AUD 203.600, to which metallic paint (AUD 1.400), 22″ Onyx Black Wheels (AUD 7.600) and Six Seat interior configuration (AUD 8.300) were added. For comparison, for this price in Australia you can get two top-spec Volvo XC90, two top-spec Toyota Land Cruiser 200, almost three base-spec Porsche Cayenne and three top-spec Jaguar F-Pace S. Ex-Luxury Tax, it costs roughly the same as a Mercedes GLS 563 AMG or a Range Rover Sport SVR and is significantly dearer than any BMW or Audi SUV, including the X6 M (AUD 197.900) and SQ7 (AUS 153.300).

Joey in his mum’s pocketMikey gets acquainted with the locals

Needless to say that for that price, I will expect top-notch quality and performance, but also some serious off-roading capabilities. Judging by the puzzled look and unmistakably paler face of the Tesla salesperson when I inquire about exactly how much off-road driving we can do with the Model X: not at all. Her response: “What do you mean by off-roading?” Hmm never mind. This is a performance car that happens to be shaped like an SUV. But first, a name for our expensive ride: after Ivanhoe the Haval H9, Joey the Toyota Hilux, Kaitlin the Peugeot 208 and Lars the Volvo V90 we need a somewhat Australian name starting in M, a male name as this is an SUV, therefore a truck which has a masculine gender in my native tongue, French. We will go with Mike, but Australianised as ‘Mikey’.


Tesla Supercharger in Heatherbrae near Newcastle

We start the trip with 3.503 km / 2.177 miles on the odo, and although the sticker on the windscreen says 542 km / 337 miles of range, we’ll never reach that figure and full charge allows us a maximum of 430 km / 286 miles. Organising a road trip with an electric car is, for now, a completely different experience than with a combustion car. The deep Australian outback and its iconic red earth is out of the equation as there aren’t enough charging stations out there. We have to stick to the coast and take the direction of Brisbane. Another option could have been joining Melbourne, but we judged that to be a lot less eventful. A rule of thumb is that you should never miss a supercharger when you reach one. With these, a full charge is achieved in 30 mins so it’s a little like a lunch stop. Except that the businesses that house the superchargers have not yet cottoned up to the opportunities and do not offer quick meal options tailored to Tesla users. Weird.


Mikey in Worimi National Park NSW

Our first stop is the Morisset Reserve, which has to be one of the only places in Australia where you can actually pet wild kangaroos (only if you have carrots to offer). Very shy in nature, the quintessential Australian animal is surprisingly tame here. A secret spot 1h30 north of Sydney I warmly recommend to all of you visiting the city, or the country for that matter. The Reserve, open to the public, is located on the grounds of one of the largest psychiatric hospitals in Australia and I came to imagine that living this heart-warming experience with the kangaroos could be therapeutic for the patients. After supercharging in Heatherbrae near Newcastle, we head towards Worimi National Park, home of the largest sand dunes in Australia. We dare not drive onto the sand so we have to do with some snaps with a sandy background (above).

Hotel charging in GraftonGrafton car landscape

The first night has to be spent at the Fitzroy Motel Inn in Grafton as this the only Destination charging station around. These are slower chargers (approx 5 hours to full charge) usually placed in the carpark of hotels, that you can only use if you are a patron of the hotel (in most cases, some are free for all). But you must call in advance to make sure the station is reserved for you as most only have one or two stations. These added elements can make or break a trip as arriving to a fully booked charging station can mean you have to delay your departure by half a day. By now the car landscape has well and truly tilted towards pickup trucks with the Toyota Hilux and Ford Ranger kings of the Australian countryside. Roo bars protecting against kangaroos are also common.

Mikey sitting on the easternmost point in continental Australia in Byron BayIn Lennox Head

Eager to figure out whether the Model X can match the safety features of the Volvo XC90 and Volvo V90 CC I drove recently, I am disappointed. The press cars have the autopilot mode deactivated, which means no line assist, no emergency braking and, most irritatingly, no adaptive cruise control. Granted, it is an exceptionally smooth ride and the 0 to 100 km/h (0 to 60 mph) in less than 4 sec and 0 to 160 km/h (0 to 100 mph) in under 9 sec are experiences I was so keen to rekindle with and left me very satisfied indeed. Even though it doesn’t offer loads of storage options, the cockpit is a lot more practical than the Model S which was my main criticism then, with many cup holders for example. And the giant central touch screen console is so hypnotising, easy to use and stylish that it’s really hard to be mad at the Model X.

Ferry crossing in Lawrence NSWGreat Wall V-Series Pickup Ford Ranger

Also, the windscreen extends above your heads to end up atop the rear seats, creating a unique impression of space and awesome upward visibility. The Falcon Wing doors are mighty impressive but really just a gimmick in my eyes. However there were some negative surprises. The cabin was surprisingly noisy especially on the passenger side with a constant wind noise sounding like the door was still open (when it’s well and truly shut). For large swaths of the trip – which was almost entirely done in heavily populated areas – the GPS does not recognise the Pacific Highway although new construction has been done with for almost two years. Surprising given Tesla’s “constant update” policy. And for half a day the GPS voice froze and was stuttering out of control, taking an overnight stop to reset it. Automatic high beam needs fine tuning as it goes off abruptly and a lot of times unnecessarily, whereas the low beams are too weak, actually creating a dangerous situation when there was none.

Posing with a vintage lot near Grafton NSW

I was also surprised when it became apparent that windscreen wipers don’t trigger automatically with rain, a function that exists in 20 year-old entry level cars such as the Peugeot 206 for example. The user manual says this “will be available in a later software update”… This is so weird that a Tesla owner we met and chatted with at one of the supercharging stations (these locations do create a Tesla community) asked us about it. He also told us that his previous Model S did have the function. I console myself by indulging in yet another ludicrous acceleration: never, ever will I get tired of this.

Foton Tunland in Brooklyn NSWToyota Hilux in Ballina

We soon reach Byron Bay and get Mikey to pose near the local lighthouse which is the easternmost point in the whole of continental Australia. Popular vehicles around here include the Nissan Navara, Hyundai Santa Fe, Toyota Kluger, VW Amarok, Mitsubishi ASX and of course the Toyota Hilux, national best-seller in 2016 and headed towards a second consecutive year on top in 2017. But one nameplate that seemed to be everywhere during this trip is the Hyundai Tucson, up 20% to #7 in the country so far this year with its frequency on the streets fully reflecting its position in the sales charts. Finally, both the new generation Honda CR-V and Mazda CX-5 are already well established here, and Chinese pickups such as the Great Wall V-Series and Foton Tunland are not uncommon,

We then drive back to Sydney via a ferry crossing in Lawrence and a last night in Brooklyn NSW in the Hawkesbury River region. We return to St Leonards with 5.269 km / 3.274 miles on the odo after swallowing 1.766 km / 1.097 miles in four days. So. What is the Tesla Model X doing well, and not so well?

  • Ludicrous accelerations either from 0 or at any speed make overtaking a little too enjoyable. The force at which the car speeds up, flattening you against your seat, is an experience I cannot forget
  • Handles truly better than most combustion sports cars
  • Central giant touch screen console is brilliant and stylish yet does not divert your attention from driving too much as it is really easy to use
  • Interior sober sophistication invites luxury. More practical than the Model S
  • Giant windscreen gives impression of space above head
  • Falcon Wing doors are fun to watch but relatively impractical
  • Easter eggs such as the Holiday song and dance to the Wizards of Winter in the video above are unique to Tesla, entertaining a special link with its customers
  • Supercharging is fast (30 mins) and the 430 km range helps with range anxiety once you are accustomed to bending your trip to meet charging locations and destinations
  • Excellent sound system

  • Autopilot deactivation means we couldn’t test any safety features as it also cancels adaptive cruise control. These functions should be separated
  • Windscreen wipers don’t trigger with rain
  • GPS is lost and can’t find main arteries such as the Pacific Highway for a large part of the trip
  • GPS voice froze and took an overnight stop to reset
  • Its extravagant price reserve the Model X to fanatics of the “concept” Tesla offers, not pragmatic buyers that will prefer it a true luxury off-roader such as the Range Rover
  • Noisy cabin with wind noise on passenger side
  • No sunnies holder above your head
  • Indications on the touch screen such as the time, distance and time to destination (pretty essential) are too small and hard to find
  • Automatic high beam too sensitive and low beam too weak
  • Door opening system with a key in the shape of the car, is impractical
  • Range, although satisfying, is over 100 km less than announced by Tesla

Stay tuned for our next test drive: a Toyota C-HR in the Australian desert.

Tesla Model X in Ballina Motel

Australia November 2017: All-time high November = annual record likely

First appearance of the Holden Astra nameplate in the Top 20 in almost 9 years.

* NOW UPDATED with the Top 50 All-brands and Top 285 All-models – click on title *

New vehicle sales in Australia establish a new November record for the third consecutive year thanks to deliveries up 2.5% year-on-year to 101.365 units, the first time in Australian history that November registers a six-digit sales figure (previous record: 98.639 in 2016). Similarly, the market is on track to hit a third consecutive all-time annual record with year-to-date sales up 0.6% over the same period last year to 1.086.296 registrations. Private sales are down 3.4% year-on-year to 45.729 whereas business sales are up 5.6% to 41.350, rental sales shoot up 22.9% to 7.225 but government sales are down 4.5% to 3.432. Going from strength to strength, SUVs hold a commanding 40.2% market share in November vs. just 36.4% for passenger cars and 19.8% for light commercials (mainly pickup trucks or “utes” as they are called here).

The Toyota Hilux is the best-selling vehicle in Australia for the 7th time in 2017. 

Where is Australia sourcing its vehicles? From Japan at 29.587 sales (+8.3%), Thailand at 24.963 (+0.9%), South Korea at 15.749 (+17.9%), Germany at 8.024 (+7.4%) and home at 4.089 (-45.4%), the latter being at 100% composed of existing stock as automotive production has ended in Australia in October 2017. Looking at sales by state and territory, Western Australia is the most dynamic this month with a 13.4% gain to 8.685 sales, followed by Tasmania up 6.2% to 2.021, Queensland up 2.1% to 19.134, New South Wales up 1.4% to 33.463 and Victoria up 1.2% to 29.332. The country’s two territories are down in November: the Australian Capital Territory is down 1.2% to 1.611 units and Northern Territory is down 2.3% to just 789.

Thanks to the new T60 pickup, Chinese LDV is up 157.9% in November. 

Toyota remains the uncontested leader of Australian sales charts, even beating the market with a 3.5% year-on-year gain to 18.6% share vs. 18.4% so far this year. The Japanese carmaker crosses the 200.000 sales milestone for the 13th year in a row and is the only manufacturer to have ever managed that feat in Australia. Mazda reclaims the #2 spot it holds YTD off Hyundai despite a 5% drop while the Korean marque is up a solid 9.9% on its November 2016 score. Volkswagen (+10.3%), Mitsubishi (+13.7%), Kia (+20.5%) and most impressively Honda (+26.5%) post the only double-digit gains in the Top 10. Holden resists at +2.6%, posting its 2nd positive month in a row (and this year) despite the demise of the Commodore, now on stock and full imported from February 2018. Skoda (+20.4%) and Isuzu (+21%) also deliver solid results, while among smaller brands Haval (+34%), Porsche (+67.9%), LDV (+157.9%), Alfa Romeo (+251.5%) and Peugeot (+361.3) are the best performers. It’s a stunning month for luxury brands: Aston Martin (+37.5%), Ferrari (+69.6%), Maserati (+90.6%), McLaren (+125%), Lamborghini (+300%) and Rolls-Royce (+350%) all post spectacular gains.

The Mitsubishi ASX is up 27% to #9 in November. Picture caradvice.com.au

After being seriously shaken in October (Hyundai i30 to #1), the Australian models ranking returns to normal this month with the Top 4 best-sellers replicating the YTD order: the Toyota Hilux leads for the seventh time this year, up 7% to 4% share, ahead of the Ford Ranger (+5%), Toyota Corolla (-9%) and Mazda3 (-14%). The Mazda CX-5 is up 21% to 5th place, headed towards a fifth consecutive year as Australia’s best-selling SUV, whereas the Hyundai i30 (-12%) slumps down five spots to #6. The Hyundai Tucson (+10%), Toyota RAV4 (+22%) and Mitsubishi ASX (+27%) make it four SUVs in the Top 9. Further down, notice the Holden Colorado up 35%, VW Golf up 27% Mitsubishi Triton up 21% and Isuzu D-Max up 20%. The Holden Astra shoots up 381% year-on-year to land at #18 now that both the sedan and sportwagon variants complete the lineup, the first time the Astra nameplate appears inside the Australian Top 20 since February 2009.

Previous month: Australia October 2017: First pole position for the new gen Hyundai i30

One year ago: Australia November 2016: Hilux vs. Ranger the new iconic battle

Full November 2017 Top 50 All-brands and Top 285 All-models below.

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Australia October 2017: First pole position for the new gen Hyundai i30

The Hyundai i30 is the best-seller in Australia in October. Picture chasingcars.com.au

* NOW UDPATED with the Top 50 All-brands and Top 280 All-models *

The Australian new vehicle market is up 2.6% year-on-year in October to 95.763 registrations, beating the pervious October record established five years ago (95.584 in October 2012). The year-to-date tally is on track for a third consecutive record year, up 0.5% on the same period a year ago to 984.931 units. SUVs outsell passenger cars again with 38.5% of the market (+1.2%) vs. 38% (-3.8%) while light commercials are up 18.5% to 20% share, pulled by a stunning 25.2% growth from 4×4 pickups, or “utes” as they are called here. Private sales are down 0.5% to 42.419 units or 44.3% share vs. 45.7% a year ago whereas business sales are up 3.5% to 39.639 or 41.4% share vs. 41% in October 2016. Rental sales amount to 7.199 and government sales to 3.097.

As of October 20, the Australian car manufacturing industry is no more.

In terms of sales by state/territory, the biggest increase is delivered by Western Australia rallying back up 12.8% to 8.548 sales, ahead of South Australia up 7% to 5.831, Queensland up 5.9% t 17.860, Northern Territory up 4.3% to 744, Australian Capital Territory up 2.6% to 1.448, Victoria up 2% to 28.098, and New South Wales up 1.9% to 32.454 whereas Tasmania is down 3.5% to 1.870. The most popular country sources are Japan at 27.062 (+5.4%), Thailand at 22.826 (+7.4%), South Korea at 15.395 (+10.8%), Germany at 7.309 (-2.8%) and Australia at 5.129 (-28.6%). This last figure is set to thaw rapidly to zero as local manufacturer Holden has historically ended Australian production on October 20, and this after 69 years of continuous car manufacturing in the country and 161 years of manufacturing, as the the company was first started by James Alexander Holden in 1856, specialising in leather goods and saddles. More on the end of Australian car manufacturing here.

The Mazda CX-5 is back in the SUV lead. 

Brand leader Toyota outpaces the market with a 9.1% year-on-year gain to 18.6% share while Hyundai (+1.1%) climbs onto the 2nd spot for the first time in 12 months. Mazda (+1.7%) is knocked down to #3, Holden (+2.7%) is back to the 4th spot it holds year-to-date – and posts its first positive month since last January – with Ford (-11.1%) rounding up the Top 5 as is also the case YTD. In the Top 10, Mitsubishi (+6.2%), Subaru (+12.7%) and Kia (+20.1%) also shine whereas Nissan is down 17.6% but back up three spots on September to #9. Further down, Audi (+9.7%), Honda (+13.7%), Isuzu Ute (+17.5%) and Land Rover (+24.9%) make themselves noticed all the while Mercedes (-13.9%), Renault (-18.7%) and Jeep (-32.9%) all struggle. Peugeot is up 51%, Lamborghini up 50% and the fastest-growing brands in market are Chinese Great Wall (+173%), LDV (+134%) as well as Maserati (+132%) and McLaren (+100%).

Hyundai looks to be onto a smashing success with the Kona in Australia. 

Model-wise, there is a surprise atop the ranking: the Hyundai i30 shoots up five spots on September to land in pole position with sales up 47% to 4.2% share. It is the first time this generation of i30, launched earlier this year, leads the Australian charts and the nameplate’s first podium and #1 spot since June 2016. In total, the i30 has now ranked #1 in the monthly Australian charts seven times, the first being in June 2015. Add to these September 2015March 2016April 2016 and May 2016. The most impressive element in this month’s i30 victory is the fact that it was achieved without the help of cutthroat pricing as the 2015-2016 wins were accompanied with a sub-$20k drive-away pricing for a car that was in runout mode. After being outsold by the Ford Ranger last month, the Toyota Hilux reclaims the advantage both overall and in the 4×4 category (2.970 vs. 2.648 sales), cementing its YTD lead at 4% share (+14%) vs. 3.6% (+18%) for the Ranger, down to #4 in October. The Toyota Corolla (-4%) remains in third place as it is YTD (-7%).

2018 Holden Commodore. Picture courtesy caradvice.com.au 

For its last full month as a locally-produced car and before being replaced by a locally-tuned rebadge of the imported new gen Opel Insignia, the Holden Commodore is up a splendid 15% to retain its spot in the Top 5, bypassing the Mitsubishi Triton year-to-date to climb back up to #9. The Mazda CX-5, boosted up an impressive 35% by the new generation, is back in the SUV throne it has held for the past four consecutive years. With the Hyundai Tucson sinking 23% to #16 in October, the CX-5 consolidates its YTD SUV lead to just under 1.000 units. The VW Golf is up 29% to snap its first Top 10 ranking since May 2016 and the Mitsubishi Triton surges 85% to #10. Other great gainers in the Top 20 include the Honda Civic (+53%), Nissan Navara (+21%), Isuzu D-Max (+18%) and Holden Colorado (+17%).

The Kia Stinger has landed in Australia. 

Further down, the Hyundai Kona goes from 71 units during its inaugural month in September to 857 in October, breaking into the Australia Top 50 at #37 and already beating the Toyota C-HR’s best month (784 last August) and headed towards the small SUV lead held this month by the Mitsubishi ASX (1.542), Subaru XV (1.182) and Mazda CX-3 (1.106). The other September launches are also up: the LDV T60 is up 77 ranks to #132 and the VW Arteon is up 57 to #153. The Honda CR-V is up 102%, the Holden Astra up 23-fold, the Subaru Impreza up 850%, the VW Amarok up 62%, the Toyota Land Cruiser Ute up 111% and the Kia Carnival up 47%. This month we welcome the Kia Stinger directly at #92 and the Renault Zoe at #278

Previous month: Australia September 2017: Ford Ranger best-seller for the first time

One year ago: Australia October 2016: Two pickups (utes) on top for the first time

Full October 2017 Top 50 All-brands and Top 280 All-models below.

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Australia September 2017: Ford Ranger best-seller for the first time

The Ford Ranger tops the Australian sales charts for the first time this month. Picture caradvice.com.au 

* NOW UPDATED with the Top 50 All-brands and Top 280 All-models *

The Australian new vehicle market is down 2.4% year-on-year in September to 100.200 registrations, meaning the year-to-date total is now only 0.2% ahead of the volume over the same period a year ago at a record 889.168 units. SUVs confirms their domination with a 38.9% market share ahead of 38.1% for passenger cars but commercials improve the most at 23% share. Private sales continue to struggle at -6% to 45.322 while business sales are down a more restrained 2.6% to 40.453. The market limits its fall thanks to strong rentals (7.789) and government fleets (3.241). All States and territories are in decline this month, with New South Wales the best performing at -0.7% to 34.168, followed by Victoria at -2.3% to 28.096, Queensland down 2.7% to 19.175 and Western Australia down 3.1% to 8.401. 65.088 petrol-powered cars found a buyer in September vs. 35.112 diesel, of which 60% are commercial vehicles. As far as country of origin is concerned, the leading one is Japan with 27.920 (-1%), ahead of Thailand at 25.251 (-2%), South Korea at 14.903 (+2%), Germany at 8.217 (+5%), Australia at 5.512 (-28%), the U.S. at 3.879 (-11%), the UK at 2.899 (-4%), Spain at 1.263 (-20%) and Hungary at 1.218 (+14%).

The Tiara was the first Toyota produced in Australia, in 1963. Local production ended this week.

Ending its local production after 54 years this week, Toyota remains by far the most popular carmaker in Australia, even outpacing the market with a 4% gain to 17.3% share vs. 18.3% year-to-date. Mazda (-14%) and Hyundai (-12.8%) round up the podium but struggle while Mitsubishi is up 5.4% to 7.1% in 4th place mainly thanks to fleet. Holden, whose Commodore is scheduled to end local production on October 20, falls a harsh 19.6% to just 37 units above archenemy Ford (-6%). Volkswagen (+11.9%), Subaru (+14.6%), Mercedes (+24.5%) and Kia (+26.4%) all post double-digit gains to complete the Top 10. Below, Honda (+16.1%), Skoda (+25%), LDV (+74.4%), Alfa Romeo (+82.7%), Citroen (+86.1%) and Peugeot (+159.2%) lodge the largest year-on-year gain in the remainder of the Top 30, the latter two thanks to a new Australian distributor.

Kia Stinger – Kia delivers the largest year-on-year gain in the Top 10 at +26.4%.First ever Australia Top 10 ranking for the Mitsubishi Outlander.

But the event of the month is to be found in the models ranking. For the first time in history, the Ford Ranger is the best-selling nameplate in Australia, thanks to deliveries up a whopping 49% year-on-year to 4.318 units, setting a new market share record at 4.3%. It is the first time in over six years – since July 2011, the last time the Holden Commodore ranked 1st – that a non-Asian model is #1 in Australia. This month the Ranger accounts for an incredible (/unhealthy?) 63% of Australian Ford sales vs. 54% so far in 2017. For the first time since January 2016, the Ranger outsells its archenemy the Toyota Hilux, itself up a very solid 19% to 3.822 units. In the lucrative 4×4 pickup segment, the Ranger wins even more easily (3.769 vs. 2.907). The Ranger is therefore the second “ute” (Australian slang for pickup) to ever lead Australian sales after the Hilux. Indeed, if having two utes atop of the Australian sales charts now seems like the new normal, it’s only less than a year ago, in October 2016, that it happened for the first time ever. The Hilux however remains 2.609 units above the Ranger year-to-date.

The Ranger is only the second Ford after the Falcon (pictured) to rank #1 in Australia. 

Having a new #1 is a rare occurrence in Australia: the Ranger is only the 9th nameplate in the past 40 years to top the Australian monthly charts at least once, and the second Ford to do so. It follows the Ford Falcon, Holden Commodore (first time in December 1978 and last in July 2011), Toyota Camry (first time in January 1995), Hyundai Excel (in June 1998), Toyota Corolla (first time in September 2005), Toyota Hilux (first time in April 2008), Mazda3 (first time in January 2009) and Hyundai i30 (first time in June 2015). It is somewhat symbolic that as the Thailand-made Ranger takes control of Australian charts, the first three aforementioned nameplates are all ending their decades-long local production run roughly at the same time. See our complete Historical Data section for more details on past Australian sales charts.

Chinese LDV (+74.4%) has launched the T60 in Australia and will launch the D90 SUV in November.

The Toyota Corolla (-11%) is the #1 passenger car in the country above the Mazda3 (-20%) potentially suffering from cannibalisation by the CX-3, up to an excellent #12. The Holden Commodore, soon to be an imported nameplate (the new gen Opel Insignia), is revived up 8% to #5 and the Toyota Camry, which ended local production this week, is up 12% to #7. For the 2nd consecutive month and the third time in the past 4 months the Hyundai Tucson is the best-selling SUV in the country at #8, ahead of a very impressive Mitsubishi Outlander up 81% to enjoy its very first Australian Top 10 ranking at #9. The Mazda CX-5 (-28%) is now just 206 sales above the Tucson year-to-date for the title of #1 SUV it has held for the past four consecutive years. The Kia Cerato (+34%) and Honda Civic (+50%) also make themselves noticed in the Top 20.

First appearance in the Australian sales charts for the Hyundai Kona.

Further down, the Subaru XV (+101%) takes advantage of its facelift to more than double its sales vs. September 2016, the Mercedes C-Class soars 43% to #26, the VW Amarok, now boosted by a new V6 variant, is up 44% to #34, its best ranking since last March, the new Holden Astra maintains itself inside the Top 30, the Toyota C-HR has disappointingly stabilised towards the tail end of the Top 50 (#48 this month) and the Peugeot 3008 is pushed into the Australian Top 100 by its new model, up 17-fold on September 2017 to #93. Chinese fares have retreated towards the end of the ranking, led by the Great Wall Steed (#178), Haval H6 (#186) and MG6 Plus (#197). Among other recent launches, the Range Rover Velar is up 82 spots on August to #106 and the Skoda Kodiaq is stable at #133. We welcome no less than three all-new nameplates in Australia this month: the promising Hyundai Kona at #154, the LDV T60 pickup at #210 and the VW Arteon at #211.

Previous month: Australia August 2017: Toyota Hilux and Ford Ranger top record market

One year ago:: Australia September 2016: Corolla in YTD lead, Mazda #1 SUV brand

Full September 2017 Top 50 All-brands and Top 280 All-models below.

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Australia August 2017: Toyota Hilux and Ford Ranger top record market

The Toyota Hilux is the best-selling vehicle in Australia for the 6th time in a row. Picture caradvice.com.au

* NOW UPDATED with the Top 50 All-brands and Top 220 All-models *

The Australian new vehicle market is up 1.8% year-on-year in August to 96.662 units, a new record for the month – and the 4th consecutive record month – lifting the year-to-date total up 0.6% to a record 788.968 sales after eight months. Private sales are up 3.7% to 45.439, business sales down 3.3% to 37.460, rental sales up a whopping 16.3% to 7.213 and government sales down 1.5% to 3.281. SUVs, up 4.7%,  keep the lead with a strong 39.4% share vs. 37.% for passenger cars down 8.2% and 20.2% for light commercials including pickups, up a brilliant 16.7%. All states and territories except Tasmania are up in August, with ACT (+9.4%), Western Australia (rallying back up 4.2%) and Queensland (+3.5%) the best performers. As for vehicle provenance, Japan dominates with 27.429 sales followed by Thailand (24.191), South Korea (14.494), Germany (7.240) and Australia (5.049).

Australian Subaru sales are up 36.2% year-on-year in August. 

In the brands ranking, Toyota skids down 0.7% to solidly hold onto the top spot at a strong 19.2% share, well over double any other manufacturer in the market. Mazda is down 8.1% to 8.8% and Hyundai returns to growth with an impressive 19.3% gain to 8.1% share in third place. Holden (-8.9%), Mitsubishi (+8.4%) and Ford (-3%) follow. Below, a trio of double-digit gainers follows: Volkswagen is up 21.5%, Subaru up a whopping 36.2% and Kia also up 21.5%. Nissan on the other hand freefalls 27.1% in 10th place. Honda (+20.5%) and Isuzu Ute (+29.4%) also impress in the Top 20 while among smaller brands, Alfa Romeo (+134.1%), Peugeot (+70.8%), Chinese Haval (+69.2%), Skoda (+59.5%), Maserati (+33.3%), LDV (+26.4%), Porsche (+19.6%) and Mini (+17.7%) shine. At the other end of the stick, Audi (-28.3%), Fiat (-32.7%), Jaguar (-36.4%), Infiniti (-42.2%), Jeep (-42.5%), Volvo (-44.1%) and Citroen (-57.3%) are all in great difficulty.

The Mitsubishi Outlander is up 21% to #16 in August. 

In the space of a year, the Toyota Hilux has established an implacable domination of the Australian sales charts. August marks the 6th consecutive month at #1 for Toyota’s “ute”, with sales up a booming 29% to 4.4% share, distancing the Ford Ranger up 21% to 3.7%. The Hilux is also #1 in the lucrative 4×4 segment with 3.190 sales vs. 3.067 for the Ranger. The Toyota Corolla (-17%) is the best-selling passenger car at #3 overall above the Mazda3 (-23%) while just below, the Hyundai i30 is back into positive territory at +15%. For the second time in the past three months, the Hyundai Tucson (+33%) is the best-selling SUV in the country, outselling the Mazda CX-5 (+8%). Notice also the Holden Commodore back up 6% to #8, the Mitsubishi Triton up 49% to #10, the Hyundai Accent up 65% to $11, Mitsubishi Outlander up 21% to #16, Nissan Qashqai up 36% to #17 and Isuzu D-Max up 27% to #19.

Previous post: Photo Report: Driving a Toyota Hilux in K’Gari Fraser Island, Australia

Previous month: Australia July 2017: Hilux leads for 5th straight month in record market

One year ago: Australia August 2016: Toyota surges 29%, fleet and rental sales strong

Full August 2017 Top 50 All-brands and Top 220 All-models below.

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Photo Report: Driving a Toyota Hilux on K’gari Fraser Island, Australia

Toyota Hilux on K’Gari Fraser Island

As of 2015, the Toyota Hilux was the best-selling vehicle in an estimated 42 countries in the world, by far the most crowned nameplate on the planet. Stay tuned for an update article coming soon featuring H1 2017 sales. In 2016, the Hilux became the first commercial vehicle to top the Australian annual sales charts, and it is in the lead again so far in 2017. It was high time for BSCB to test-drive this worldwide best-seller, and Toyota Australia kindly loaned us a Hilux Double Cab TD SR5 4×4 2.8L for one week. We decided to take it to spectacular Fraser Island, or K’gari in local Butchulla Aboriginal language (pronounced “Gurri”) which means paradise. But first to find a name for our Hilux. The last loaner we had was a Haval H9 we nicknamed Ivanhoe, so this one needs to start in J. The search quickly narrowed down to Joey, meaning a baby kangaroo, apt for this agile and shining new Hilux.

It all started in Sydney…Fraser Island location in AustraliaFraser Island map

We took hold of the Hilux at Toyota’s Sydney headquarters, and from here to Fraser Island it’s a 15h, 1.250km-long trip traversing countryside New South Wales and Queensland. The return voyage ended up adding 2.639 km to Joey’s odo, all done in four days. K’Gari Fraser Island is the largest sand island in the world at 1.840 km2. Yep, that means there isn’t a single rock on the island! It is located 250 km north of Brisbane on the Australian east coast, has a length of 120 km (75 mi) for a width of around 24 km (15 mi). It houses over 100 freshwater lakes that are some of the cleanest in the world. Joey couldn’t resist a splash in one of the freshwater rivers running down into the ocean:

K’Gari Fraser Island has been inhabited by humans for at least 5.000 years and is the home of roughly 200 inhabitants today. It was formerly known as the Great Sandy Island in the late 18th and early 19th century and owes its current name to Eliza Fraser who created what may well be one of the first instances of what we call today “fake news”… Eliza Fraser was the wife of Captain James Fraser, master of the Stirling Castle that struck a reef north of the island in 1836. They landed with the crew on a longboat, then attempting to trek south. Eliza claimed she was captured by the Badtjala people who she wrongly accused of being cannibals. Many other survivors of the same shipwreck later disputed her claims. However, Fraser’s fictional report of her ill-treatment on the island eventually led to the massacre and dispossession of the island’s tribe. The 1976 film “Eliza Fraser” sustained the legend and was at the time the most expensive Australian film ever made.

Access to the barge to Fraser Island (Inskip Point)

As we had booked accomodation in Happy Valley, about half-way up the eastern coast of the island (see map above), we decided to enter Fraser Island from the south, taking the barge from Rainbow beach and Inskip Point. We thought it would be a small yet proper harbour with, well, a sealed street leading to it. None of this in this part of Australia! To reach the barge we first had to cross a pretty deep sand field. My co-driver David and I have no prior experience of sand driving – one of the reasons we wanted to take the Hilux here – so we had just previously lowered the pressure of our tyres slightly, thinking it would be enough with the help of the low range 4WD gear. How naive were we.

Maxtrax recovery tracks

Only a few metres and we got bogged down. After watching us for a few minutes trying to extricate ourselves and just as we were starting to think that Fraser Island would remain unreachable for this trip, two good samaritans (as only they come by in Australia) got us out of here with a pair of bright orange Maxtrax recovery tracks such as the one pictured above. A must-buy for any trip where you are planning to drive in the sand. They also had a valve that automatically lowered our tyres to 100kpa (or 15 psi). Perfect. We were now set.

It turns out, getting bogged down in Inskip Point is at the same time so frequent and so surprising that there is a Facebook Page dedicated to it! Yessir! It’s called “I got bogged at Inskip Point”, has almost 100.000 followers  and features numerous videos of cars getting… well, bogged down. We are now part of an exclusive club!

Joey and the barge to Fraser Island in Inskip Point
Joey on the barge towards Hook Point on Fraser Island

We are the only vehicle on the southern barge to Fraser, with a German backpacker giving us our ticket. Payment is by credit card with the captain perched atop a steep ladder and our National Park entrance fee is only available to purchase online. Thankfully the beaches on Fraser have very good wifi access (!). Upon landing on Hook Point is the real test of our sand driving and the lowered pressure are working a treat: it’s like we’re flying above the sand… Off we go on the exactly named 75 mile Beach. The entire eastern coast of the island is indeed a “beach track” open to vehicles. Only 4WDs are allowed on the island however.

Dingos on Fraser Island

Fraser Island invariably triggers one reaction among Australians: “don’t feed the dingos!” Dingos are a type of free-ranging dogs native to Australia. They are the largest terrestrial predator in Australia and have a prominent role in Aboriginal culture. Dingoes of Fraser Island, estimated to be around 180 to 220, are considered some of the last remaining pure dingoes in the country. As a result and to prevent cross-breeding, dogs are now allowed on the island. Since the 2001 killing of a boy by several dingoes on the island, strict measures have been taken regimenting human interaction with the animals (see card above). You can be heavily fined for feeding dingoes or even leaving food and rubbish out which may attract them.

GPS on the beach40 km/h speed limit sign along the 75 mile Beach

The 75 mile Beach is in effect a sort of sand highway, so much so that speed limit signs have been installed on the side of the beach! As far as I was concerned this was a first for me. It’s rather simple: where freshwater rivulets or rivers cross the beach towards the ocean creating creases, the speed limit goes down to 40 km/h. Otherwise it’s 80 km/h. Seems like a pretty high speed for driving on the sand but, as we’ll explain further down, high(ish) speed on sand isn’t actually a bad thing, rather much needed help. Another peculiarity of the 75 mile Beach “highway” is that the southern part of it towards Hook Point which is where the barge lands isn’t passable at high tide. To add fun to the game, the tides actually vary greatly from day to day, so we ended up being glued to the Fraser Island tide webpage for a good part of our stay on the island and opted to drive when the tide was going down rather than up, “just in case”…

Air Fraser Island plane. Picture wikipedia

One of the other “dangers” of driving on this part of the island is that it also serves as a landing strip for Air Fraser Island planes – these are not seaplanes – which offer touristic overviews of the Island. During my first trip to the island back in 2003, one of these planes landed just next to us and it was a mighty unforgettable sight. We did not have that luck this time but did see a couple of planes take off further along the beach. So in a word, when driving on the 75 mile Beach, you have to pay attention above more so than right or left…

Joey posing next to the shipwreck of the S.S. Maheno

An iconic sight of Fraser Island is the shipwreck of the S.S. Maheno, also located along the east coast of the island. It became beached in 1935 while being towed to Osaka to be broken up. But it doesn’t stop there… During the Second World War, the S.S. Maheno wreck served as target bombing practice for the Royal Australian Air Force. Today, almost three and a half storeys are buried under the sand. Speaking of which, now onto sand driving…

Sand driving on the way back to the bargeOne of Fraser Island inland sand tracks. And yes this is a two-way track! 

Driving on sand turned out to be much easier than expected once our tyre pressure was significantly lowered. That is, if you follow one simple rule: don’t drive slow! Completely counter-intuitive, driving kind of fast on sand is key to avoid getting bogged down. This explains why the speed limit is as high as 80 km/h on some parts of the 75 Mile Beach. On average, driving at around 40 km/h constantly will do the trick. To me, it felt like driving on semi-solid mud, to my co-driver David who also flies planes, the way the car follows the sand tracks and ruts more than obeying your steering reminded him of how a plane feels in windy conditions. A scary part though was driving on one of the inland sand tracks that didn’t allow space for more than one vehicle even though it was a two-way track!

Here’s Joey driving through the last bit of sand we had for him, after arriving back to Inskip Point, before a (very quick) review of the vehicle below. This time we didn’t get bogged in Iskip Point! Too bad for their Facebook Page…

A happy crew!

Sand driving ability: this is why we came to Fraser Island and we weren’t disappointed, once a few basics were applied on our side. Nothing can stop the Hilux outside the beaten tracks and this test drive proved it again.

Interior comfort is top notch, the pickup feels robust to drive yet is very manoeuvrable.

2.8L TD Engine has all the grunt that is needed for this type of trip, be it on sand or on asphalt.

Commands are all very intuitive apart from one (see below)…

Fuel consumption is correct given the size of the vehicle

The main and surprising source of grunts was the GPS: disconcerting at best, frustrating at worst, it’s convoluted to operate, and thus dangerous because requiring complete attention on the screen. Names of hotels cannot be picked up unless you are “near”, the GPS continues to calculate the route once arrived at destination… The list goes on.

A pet hate of mine: for this type of price (AU$ 59.459 driveaway), you’d expect not just the driver seat to be electric but the passenger one as well. It is manual. Feels a tad cheap.

It’s good bye for now Joey!

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