HERE'S proof blokes can't spend enough on their utes: Toyota has transformed its HiLux into a real life Tonka Truck.
The latest figures show buyers are spending more on utes than ever before, with the most expensive versions - topping $60,000 - accounting for more than half of Toyota HiLux and Ford Ranger sales. Last year, the Toyota HiLux was Australia's best selling vehicle of any type - the first time in our history a ute had topped the sales charts. Utes now represent four of the top 10 sellers nationally.
Which is why Toyota, Ford and Holden are secretly working on even more expensive "monster utes" that will be on sale within the next two years.
It's also why Volkswagen just introduced a super-luxury version of its Amarok pick-up - and Mercedes-Benz is planning to get in on the action with its new X-Class ute due next year.
A little more than a decade ago, the Holden Commodore and Ford Falcon utes topped the workhorse market. But since 2006, heavy duty utes such as the Toyota HiLux have been the tradies' favourite.
The HiLux Tonka edition is a one-off special created by the 150 designers and engineers who work at Toyota headquarters in Melbourne.
Toyota says families will get to see the Tonka HiLux "in the metal" as it tours 4WD shows, field days and expos around the country.
"We have taken Tonka out of the sand pit and reinvented HiLux from top to bottom and from nose to tail," said Toyota Australia designer Nick Hogios.
"Inspired by the Tonka trucks that kids play with in their backyards, the HiLux Tonka Concept goes way beyond the already hugely capable abilities of HiLux to traverse rocks and other rugged terrain." Unlike other show cars, the Tonka HiLux actually drives.
Underneath the wild yellow and black bodywork is a HiLux SR5 that's been jacked up on heavy duty off-road suspension.
It also has extra underbody protection should you want to take it off the beaten track.
To the end of February this year, Australians have bought more than 920,000 Toyota HiLux utes since 1968, including more than 40,000 last year alone.
The HiLux has been Australia's top-selling four-door 4WD ute for more than three decades.
Last year the HiLux was the top-selling vehicle in Western Australia for the ninth year in a row, in Queensland for the 10th straight year and in the Northern Territory for the 16th consecutive year.
However, the HiLux's dominance is under attack from rivals such as the Ford Ranger, which has closed the sales gap over the past two years.
Regardless of whether or not the HiLux retains its overall ute leadership, it should pass the 1 million sales milestone locally within the next two years.
This reporter is on Twitter: @JoshuaDowling
Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.