Toyota NZ cautious about Hilux swerve stumble

Toyota here is towing the company line in commenting about potential fallout from a strong seller tripping up in an independent handling test.


WHETHER the embarrassing outcome of a stability test for the Hilux will affect its sales and standing here has been steered cleared of by Toyota New Zealand.

However, while it has not answered that question, the Palmerston North-domiciled distributor of the country’s second-most popular one-tonne utility has identified itself as being aligned with Toyota Japan in wanting to know more about how the model dramatically under-performed in a European extreme handling evaluation called the ‘moose test’.

A comment attributed to Spencer Morris (below), general manager of customer services and product planning, has been sent to Motoring Network in response to our inquiry.

We asked whether New Zealand owners have expressed concern about the widely publicised result of a test by a Swedish publication in which the vehicle appear on the verge of a rollover. A spokesman said there had been one or two calls, but that was all.

We also wanted to know if Toyota New Zealand was concerned about the potential for damage to sales of their vehicle, which at the end of the month had achieved 5299 year-to-date registrations, to place as the second-most popular ute here behind the Ford Ranger, on 7173.

In response to this, spokesman Morgan Dilks said the TNZ manager best placed to answer this - not Morris - was not available for comment, "so nothing for you there."

The magazine that ran the test, Teknikens Varld, reckons the poor showing by Hilux in its standard swerve test - which requires a vehicle of this type to be loaded with 830kg, taken to 60kmh and then aggressively steered left and right to replicate how a driver might act to avoid an obstacle – suggests there is something “seriously wrong.”

The Toyota dangerously cocked its right wheels before the driver pulled it into line. The problem was deemed to be a result of tyre grip and the absence of an anti-rollover system, given the suspension didn’t bottom out.

The comment attributed to Morris was as follows.

“At Toyota, the safety and security of our customers remains our number one priority.

“Toyota takes the report published by the Swedish automobile magazine … on this emergency-avoidance test seriously and Toyota Japan are currently in discussions with the publication to find out additional details about the test.”

The magazine noted the test car was running on 265/60 tyres on 18-inch wheels, as per the fitout for the popular SR5 specification. A later test with less grippy 265/65 rubber on 17s yielded a slightly better result, though the inside wheel still raised up. Both sported traction control.

What is potentially more embarrassing for Toyota is that this was a multi-test, involving every rival rig that it faces here – save the Holden Colorado – and that all those vehicles did a lot better.

In fact, the magazine cites that the Ford Ranger, Mitsubishi Triton, Nissan Navara, Volkswagen Amarok and Isuzu D-Max went over the same test at slightly higher speed without anything like the same drama.

Staff reporter Linus Projtz slammed the Hilux, saying that little had changed since the previous iteration was tested in 2007.

“Nine years has passed, nothing has evolved. This extremely dangerous behaviour shows itself at 37mph, the competitors like Amarok and Navara can do it at 42mph and are not showing anything close to that behaviour,” he said.

The conclusion drawn? “Something is seriously wrong with Toyota’s dynamic security, and the result depends on the tyres the car has,” the testers said.

Other Toyota distributors have reaction to the test. Toyota Australia issue identical comment to that released by Toyota New Zealand.

Toyota Sweden said that “based on all the tests carried out during development, we are confident that the Toyota Hilux is a safe vehicle.

“As we understand, you have performed an evasive manoeuvre tests in your newspaper testing protocols on a series pick-ups, including the Toyota Hilux.

“You have informed us that the Toyota Hilux is not living up to your expectations. We were surprised by the test results, and we will take your assessment very seriously, just as we take the capacity for evasive manoeuvres as serious in the development of our vehicles.

“Hilux has been repeatedly tested according to ISO 3888 standard for evasive action test during the development of the model and then have passed the tests successfully.

“Several technical parameters have an impact on the outcome of an evasive manoeuvre, so we want to better understand the exact parameters for your test.”