Skip to main content

Top Gear famously battered and bruised a Toyota Hilux, yet it still ran after some basic repairs. This extreme reliability is one of the reasons why the Hilux is one of the most popular trucks that’s not sold in America. Here’s the story of the Hilux, and why it’s no longer available in the states.

The early days of the Toyota Hilux

Introduced in the late ’60s, the Hilux was a staple of America for about 20 years, according to Toyota of Orlando. The Hilux during these years were the same trucks that were popularly sold around the world. Hiluxes were so tough and reliable that it was called the world’s most indestructible cars, according to Forbes.

The Hilux was a small, dependable, and versatile truck. It was used by almost anyone and it could be used for almost anything, according to WhichCar. Millions of Hilux were sold in this timespan, and the Hilux became one of the most popular cars in places like America and Australia. The Hilux was also beloved in other parts of the world too, from South America to Europe, and from Africa to Asia. 

However, that’s when trouble started brewing for Toyota in America.

Rules and regulations

In the ’80s, the government introduced a new law that made it harder to import new cars from abroad. Furthermore, in the ’60s, a tax called the Chicken Tax added a 25% tax to light-duty trucks, which the Hilux was. To get around these laws, Toyota started making cars in the U.S., as that would avoid those regulations. 

Another way that Toyota did that was by partnering with American automakers, like Winnebago. According to Toyota of Orlando, this was what allowed Toyota to break into the SUV market of America. This was also how Toyota created the successful 4Runner SUV. On top of that though, the 4Runner’s success showed Toyota that the future of Toyota in the U.S. was making cars in America, for Americans. 

And that’s why Toyota start making the Tacoma in America as a compact pickup truck to replace the Hilux. The two models are very similar in form and in function. The differences are that the Tacoma allows Toyota to get around the rules and regulations that the Hilux couldn’t get around.

Furthermore, according to The Drive, the Hilux, because it’s been away from American markets for so long, doesn’t conform to American emissions and safety standards anymore. Toyota could create an American Hilux that’s made in America and that meets American safety and emissions standards, but there’s one big reason why Toyota won’t do that.

The Tacoma

Toyota wanted the Tacoma to replace the Hilux in America, and the Tacoma just does that too well. The Tacoma was extremely similar to the Hilux when the Tacoma was first introduced, but since then, the Tacoma and the Hilux have become very different trucks. Most of these differences come from Toyota reading the pulse of America and changing the Tacoma accordingly. 

For example, the Tacoma isn’t available as a single cab pickup truck, whereas around the world, that option still exists for the Hilux. That’s largely because Americans are turned off to the idea of single cab pickups, so Toyota had no reason to continue making the single cab Tacoma for America.

Another issue is that changing the Hilux and everything else in the American manufacturing process to build the Hilux for America wouldn’t be cheap. And, if Toyota sells the Hilux in the U.S., then the Hilux could end up stealing some of the Tacoma’s sales. For those reasons, Toyota’s likely going to continue focusing on improving the Tacoma rather than working to get the Hilux over to American dealerships.