The Toyota Hilux is a pickup truck that can go anywhere and everywhere… except to North America. We tell you why!
There’s a well-earned reputation for quality and reliability that Toyota enjoys the world over. And then there’s the Toyota Hilux, the poster boy for bulletproof Toyotas. If you wanted a tough, reliable work truck, there’s no reason to really look elsewhere.
Except, the Toyota Hilux has never really been an option for us in the United States. From its launch in Japan in 1968, to it being available in limited numbers in America from the early 70s through to the 90s, the Hilux was very much a niche truck.
Possibly made even more niche by the decision to call it the “Toyota truck” instead of Hilux in those early years. By the time the mid-90s rolled around, the Hilux had all but disappeared. The larger Toyota Tacoma would eventually take its place in the US. And quite successfully too, with the newest models proving to be excellent all-rounders.
But when the Toyota Hilux is still one of the most popular trucks worldwide, why did it never catch on in North America? We have the answers.
History Of The Undying Toyota Hilux Pickup Truck
Toyota initially introduced the Hilux to the Japanese market in March 1968. Soon after, the Hilux’s success led the truck beyond Japanese borders to the international market. It finally arrived in the North American market in 1972 and replaced three other Toyota models.
The Hilux’s arrival in the North American market was the start of its second generation. Now, with a significantly upgraded interior, the Hilux was more faithful to what it was meant to be: a versatile pickup truck that offers comfort and smooth rides. The Hilux was dubbed the Truck or Pickup Truck in 1976 for the North American market.
Toyota Hilux proved itself to be mind-blowingly durable from the start, even after decades of use. In 2007, Jeremy Clarkson brought a 1988 Toyota Hilux to Top Gear to see if what Toyota said about Hilux is true. Toyota had already boasted about the Hilux and claimed it to be the toughest vehicle in the world. Clarkson put the Hilux in a series of insane tasks to see if it’s possible to kill the Hilux.
The 1988 Hilux on Top Gear, which already had 190,000 miles on the odometer when it was bought for the show, survived many obstacles as well as drowning in seawater for a night, having a trailer dropped onto it, getting hit by a wrecking ball, and being set on fire.
How & Why the Hilux Said Goodbye To North America
As said, the Toyota Hilux started strong, and it continued even more potent. In the 90s, the Toyota Pickup (the alternative name for the Hilux) was a popular choice for work fleets. Owners loved their car since not only did it get the job done, but it also provided a comfortable ride and had a touch of luxury in the interior.
Despite all of that, the Toyota Hilux disappeared from the North American market in 1995. Some reasons behind Toyota’s decision to pull the Hilux out of North America may have to do with emission and safety standards. Now, Toyota wasn’t manufacturing the Hilux in the US anymore and replaced it with a new model for the American buyers: the Toyota Tacoma.
However, it is technically possible to import a Toyota Hilux to the states today, but it comes at a great price. Due to a tax policy imposed by the American government called the Chicken Tax, importing a light truck built outside the US requires a 25 percent tariff. This 25 percent jump in the cost makes the Hilux too expensive to compete with other compact pickup trucks in the US Market.
If the Hilux was manufactured by Toyota in the US, the buyers would no longer be required to pay the extra 25 percent tariff.
Hilux’s Americanized Alternative The Tacoma
Although the Hilux is no more available in the US Market, its alternative makes it all up. The Toyota Tacoma has been a successful successor to the Hilux since 1995. And even though in a lot of ways it looks similar to the Hilux, some differences make the Tacoma more suitable for American buyers.
The Hilux and the Tacoma platforms are pretty similar, but the Tacoma is a bit wider than the Hilux, which makes it suitable for the wide roads in America. The design language for the Tacoma follows a more aggressive tone which makes it fit in among other popular pickup trucks in America.
Another differentiator is that Hilux comes with a variety of engine options and a fair number of which are diesel options. Light pickups with diesel engine models are not that popular with American buyers.
The Hilux Remains Toyota’s Most Durable Car
The Toyota Hilux appeared on the North American market in 1972 and had a reasonably successful run until 1995. While the Toyota Tacoma can confidently hold itself against its competitors, the Hilux stays as Toyota’s most famous and durable pickup truck around the world.
Though the 25 percent tariff imposed by the US government makes the Toyota Hilux a rather unpopular option for the average consumer, the true fans of Toyota pickups can still technically import a Hilux to the states as long as they’re willing to pay the price.
Used Pre-1995 Toyota Hilux To Quench Your Thirst
If you are someone who is tight on budget but still wants to get a Toyota Hilux, then there’s a way! There are many used 1995 and older Toyota Hilux on sale across various states. Autotrader has a bunch of listings with the cheapest being a 1982 Hilux starting from just under $9,000.
Classic Cars also have a few Hilux in their bucket including a 1993 model with 74,000 miles on the odo for $25,000. For the fan-following this car has in the US and around the world, these are some pretty impressive pricing. So, if you are seriously looking out for one, get clicking!