Small Trucks Are Back, Now Give Americans Utes

With the arrival of vehicles like the Ford Maverick and Hyundai Santa Cruz, small trucks are back in America. But for some, these vehicles just aren’t enough. Some folks are interested in a different kind of truck, something known as a ute. Utes are extremely popular in places like Australia, but for some reason, they are absent from roads here in the States. The history of utes dates back to the early 1900s when two-door cars were given a tray in the rear. Eventually, the concept would evolve into what is now the modern ute from brands like Holden and Subaru. 

What is a ute?

Although they might look like pickup trucks, there are some key differences between a ute and what we know as a truck here in America. These vehicles are mostly found in Australia, and according to Car Throttle, that dates back to 1932. The store goes that a farmer and his wife wanted a vehicle that could meet their specific needs. Going to church on Sunday and hauling pigs to the market on Monday.

So, the couple wrote a letter to Henry Ford requesting that this vehicle be made. And Ford obliged. Utes are built on car platforms, and the bed and the passenger space are actually one piece. This is not the case for a traditional pickup truck. Pickups are made out of two pieces, the cab, and the cargo bed. 

What are utes used for?

Generally speaking, these vehicles are designed more for hauling cargo than they are for towing. And that is a key difference between them and pickup trucks. Additionally, they usually come with two doors and lack the cab configurability of traditional trucks. 

A yellow Holden ute shows off its unique styling with a yellow paint job.
Holden Commodore ute | OSX

In the past, companies like Holden have been known for their utes. But unfortunately, General Motors wound up killing off the brand. Here in America, it seems like the closest thing we will get to a ute are the Ford Maverick and Hyundai Santa Cruz. But, folks have converted models like the Volkswagen Jetta to handle ute duties. 

Why doesn’t America get utes?

Simply put, the death of the American ute can be chalked up to regulations. In 1975, cars were given different fuel regulation standards than pickup trucks. And since utes are essentially cars with a bed, they had to adhere to those standards. Because of this, vehicles like the El Camino and Ranchero saw their power significantly cut. And that really ruined their popularity. 

Another factor? Pickup trucks just became more popular than utes in the States. And if companies are having difficulty selling something, typically, production stops. It seems folks would rather have a more capable vehicle than a car with a pickup bed. Even if they do not actually need that capability.

Can you buy a ute in the U.S.?

If you really want to buy a ute here in the States, there are some options out there. For instance, Subaru once offered a vehicle known as the Brat. Depending on condition, you can find one for around $15,000, but it seems like prices might be climbing for clean examples. 

A Subaru Brat ute sits in an open field.
1981 Subaru Brat | Heritage Images via Getty Images

Unfortunately, if you want to import a ute, you will have to find one that is over 25 years old in order to comply with U.S. importing laws. So, a newer Holden Commodore is out of the picture.

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