Is Toyota Losing the Market for "Technicals" to China?

Ronnie Schreiber
by Ronnie Schreiber

You’ve seen them before, photos from some godforsaken place of insurgent warfare. A half dozen rag tag soldiers, if you can call them soldiers, bristling with Chinese Kalishnikov knockoffs, piled into a Toyota Hilux with a heavy machine gun or some other armament like a recoil-less rifle or ack-ack gun mounted on the roof or in the bed. The Toyota Hilux has been the choice of low level combatants around the world since the 1960s. As noted by China Car Times, when Muammar Gaddafi (is there a world leader whose names, first and last, are spelled in so many different ways?) had one of his snit fits and invaded Chad in 1987 to overturn the government, both sides used so many Hiluxes that Time magazine dubbed it the Toyota War. In the early 90s, the war in Somalia brought us the term “technical”, interestingly enough derived from the NGO practice of hiring local gunmen to protect their employees, and paying them with funds earmarked as “technical assitance grants”.

The Hilux was simple, durable, reliable, easy to fix and you could get parts for it anywhere. A modern day version of the original military Jeep, if you will. I don’t know if it’s good PR to have your product identified with mercenaries, gunmen and rebels, but it’s possible that Toyota was helped by news photos and video showing the Toyota logo on the tailgate of trucks obviously performing in severe duty.

Toyota, though, may be losing its mojo when it comes to the insurgent market [Ed: despite retaining a resilient brand, an interesting parallel to the civilian market]. The Hilux has gained weight and luxury, two things not needed nor desired by a rebel army that must be quick on its feet, er… wheels. It’s also grown more expensive. Toyota was once sort of an insurgent itself in a lot of markets. Now Toyota faces competition from cheaper, perhaps even more aggressive competitors from China. Though you may not be able to get a Ford guy out of his F-150, trading it in on a Silverado, it appears that you can get a warlord or rebel to consider a different brand for their fleet of technicals.

Chinese manufacturers like Greatwall, Huanghai and ZX Auto have made a push into the Middle East. Their trucks are cheap, $10,000 USD or less, about what Hiluxes cost years ago, and they are relatively simple by today”s standards. Actually since those Chinese companies are using old Toyota and Isuzu designs, they are very much like the older Hiluxes.

Eagle eyed followers of things automotive and military have noticed in the fighting in Libya, that ZX pickups are starting to replace Toyotas as the choice of the discriminating technical driver. In the photo above, you can see a bunch of ZX Grandtiger trucks in formation (of a sorts). To be sure, out in the front there’s that ubiquitous Toyota tailgate as a Hilux leads the charge, but it’s clear that recalls and tsunamis aren’t Toyota’s only recent setbacks. ZX now claims to have half of the small pickup market in Libya, The trucks used as technicals in the photo above are possibly part of the shipment of 6,000 trucks in a single shipment to Tripoli in 2009. Recently ZX announced that in January of 2011 they exported 2,250 units of the Grandtiger to Libya. That was just before unrest started proliferating across the Arab world.

Apparently the Grandtiger pickups in the photo below are part of that January shipment.

If you look at the Libyan technical above, other than the tape strpe, it’s the same four door truck as the technical below, down to the roll bar, running boards and wheels.

Ronnie Schreiber
Ronnie Schreiber

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, the original 3D car site.

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  • M 1 M 1 on Jul 06, 2011

    New cost is one factor, but parts availability is a huge (possibly larger) factor: Toyota has changed the internals rather significantly in past years. We've had several inquiries about exporting container-loads of things like Hilux-compatible alternators to various South American and African destinations and they're nearly impossible to source in any significant quantities (even pre-tsunami). And no self-respecting warlord would pay A1-Cardone aftermarket reman prices! @morbo: Thank the EPA and NHTSA!

  • Obbop Obbop on Jul 06, 2011

    Being the Supreme Exalted Leader of my own regime firmly planted within my own personal compound with the bunker (aka shanty) prepared for outside attack (see fortified closet here: ) A mighty-fine closet worthy of a despot. A bastion to fend off Feds or others imperiling Cootness. I remain non-mobile due to a lack of firepower for the Chevy pick-up. The camper shell precludes armament mounts and insurgency against the far superior firepower the USA can muster against me requires me to be a Complacent Coot huddled within my little Coot Compound.

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  • Redapple2 Love/lust a 110 diesel defender. Should buy one since the INEOS is gas only (and double the price). Had a lightweight in Greece. Wonder how this rides.
  • Ajla There is inventory on the ground but as pointed out it is generally high dollar trims of high-dollar models and at least around here dealers still aren't budging off their mandatory nitrogen tires and Summer weather protection packages.You aren't paying '21-'22 prices anymore but it's still a long way to go.
  • Slavuta Every electric car must come with a film about lithium mining
  • Sobhuza Trooper Drop a good, high-strung German engine in this and you'd have American flair with German repair costs!