Of the many reasons we choose the Hilux, perhaps being South African is the most significant.
There are perhaps many reasons why the Toyota Hilux is South Africa’s best-selling bakkie but when you learn that more than 1000 more of them were sold than the Ford Ranger this March, it becomes difficult to pin point why there's such a significant gap if you’re not on the cusp of all things motoring - and all things identity and land in South Africa.
Yes, 3 825 new Hiluxes were sold in March compared to the second best seller, the Ranger - it sold 2753. No doubt, that difference is quite remarkable when you consider the pedigree of Ford globally. In America alone, approximately 2500 Ford F150 bakkies are sold every single day - never mind in a month - which, as ridiculous as that stat is, could be stand-alone proof why you should consider a Ford instead.
But why, in Africa, is this not the case? Why across the brilliant spectrum of the Africans who live here, from the Afrikaners to the amaZulu, do South Africans prefer the Hilux when nothing about it, on the face of it at least, seems that much better than the Ranger?
New car reviews across South Africa would nit-pick each bakkie and give honest and fair assessments, describing which is better for you if you were ‘so-and-so’ and liked to do ‘that-and-that’. Still, those reviews aside (many of which have been in favour of the Ranger), the Toyota Hilux will still sell more in South Africa and that there is likely to remain our remarkable reality.
To find out why though, GT MAG digs a little deeper to unearth the truth:
The depths of human identity is a fascinating facet in social anthropology and how we choose our cars may be more in our “blood” than we think it is. Why South Africans choose Toyota when it comes to double cabs may be the same reason why Americans choose Ford. Because, it is who we are and like the bush and the land that forged us, the savanna of our identity, a Toyota Hilux might very well be as a part of that identity as the rhino is, as the Karoo is, as the Drakensberg is...
From Mpumulanga to the Northern Cape, the Toyota Hilux is bought by more Africans, black and white, than any other bakkie so does that speak to a shared identity, chiselled by the land around us, by the forefathers who fought to conceive us and the slowly brewing sunsets that created our sense of African belonging and being? Is the Toyota Hilux the car version of that very essence and identity? We’d say yes.
But, even so, it still doesn’t help explain how the Hilux became entwined with our identity more than any other bakkie and why it remains so prominent from the sunrise hills of uTata's Transkei to the orange-tangled bush of the Rooiveld.
As such, on the purest bakkie-going note, is there actually further reason why we choose a Hilux beyond those shallow new-car reviews, beyond momentary preference, beyond our 'South Africaness' and the fact that if we don’t we might never be able to set foot at a family braai again.
Well, recently, GT MAG interviewed the owner of The Engine Man, Leon Daniel, who has worked extensively with farmers for nearly 35 years from the Northern Cape to KZN, where he has seen the first hand effects of the African landscape on the double cab:
“Yes, it’s all good and well to buy a Ranger if you have a maintenance plan and live in a city. If something happens it's convenient. There, the Ford is absolutely brilliant. Off road, you'll be more than satisfied too, from your garage to your bush holiday - make no mistake about it!
"But, many of the farmers I deal with have owned there for vehicles for years, are out of maintenance plan and work relentlessly in tough and rugged conditions. In this case, when it comes to longevity, Toyota just makes sense. It is far easier and cheaper finding the parts for an old Toyota Hilux than an old Ford and that’s just the reality in South Africa."
He continues on: “If a Toyota breaks down hundreds of miles from civilisation, it will be cheaper and easier fixing it. So, I wouldn’t necessarily say then that Toyota is more reliable than Ford but let’s just say that if I lived in a rural area, I would be far more comfortable driving a Toyota.”
“Perhaps that legacy lives on among city people who also choose the Hilux for those reasons," he adds.
When pushed on the issue of identity and asked whether he thought that people may buy the Hilux because it is a symbol of being South African, he replied:
“Yes, I suppose you can argue that, but that shouldn’t take away from the fact that the Toyota Hilux is one hell of a reliable machine. It’s like the thing was designed for Africa!"
Then, after a pause: "Maybe you’re right then. Maybe we love it because we’re African.”