By on July 5, 2011

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.


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37 Comments on “Is Toyota Losing the Market for “Technicals” to China?...”

  • avatar

    Toyota, now 30% less popular with despots around the world – I think that is stat we can call agree is a very good thing.

    • 0 avatar

      I read Toyota/Lexus has half of Saudi Arabia.

      • 0 avatar

        The roll bars that you see on trucks here in Saudi aren’t actual roll bars. They’re more like a tie-down spot.

        There’s a lot of cool old Toyota Landcruisers here. Lots of models they didn’t sell in the US as far as I know. When I looked into buying one I was told that the parts are made in China. I wonder if China is doing with Japan what the Japanese did with England. License (doubtful since it’s China) and use their designs.

  • avatar

    Can I order one with a 50 cal mounting outa da box or do I need an off the shelf kit?

  • avatar

    Always the ubiquitous fleet white.

  • avatar

    Any colour you like as long as its…………..makes it easy to blend in with traffic called like cammoflage in a jungle

  • avatar
    John Horner did a very similar story back on 3/18/11, complete with the same lead photo.

    • 0 avatar

      Wow, if you’re going to use another publication’s idea for a story and use their artwork, you should at least credit the original author. Passing this off as original is in pretty poor taste.

      • 0 avatar

        TERRIBLE. The Editor deserves to be SHOT and the writer HUNG.

      • 0 avatar

        Nobody said it was an original idea. I’m lucky if I have one original idea a day. Over 90% of what I write is inspired one way or another by someone else’s work. In this case, though, the post was not inspired by another post, but rather it grew out of an interest I have in ZX.

        I was researching ZX (a company I’ve been following since before CHAMCO was revealed to be a bit of a scam) when I stumbled across the news that they were shipping to Libya. It piqued my curiosity because of the current fighting there. I did some more research including but not limited to the China Car Times article but I was already working on the story when I found the article you linked to, which I found while looking not for information but for an image to use to illustrate this post.

        I don’t try to hide my sources. If you note, there are no links in the article. I’m usually more careful about linking which you can see if you look at other pieces of mine, but I wrote this piece some time ago and was actually surprised to see it because I thought our esteemed ed Ed had passed on it. I may not have done a final edit at the time. That’s when I usually add in links and photo credits. I’ve put in a request to our esteemed ed Ed to add a photo credit for China Car Times below the image.

        Bob Dylan’s been described as a sponge, soaking up others’ ideas. Picasso is attributed to have said “good artists copy, great artists steal”. I’ve also seen different versions: “bad artists copy, great artists steal” or the simpler, “hacks copy, artists steal”. When he does the song live, Dylan himself performs All Along The Watchtower with Jimi Hendrix’s arrangement, because, as he says, Hendrix made the song his own.

      • 0 avatar

        Lame excuse. The structure is basically the same. Switch the sentences. If you were in my class, you’d get a F.

      • 0 avatar


        Who’s to say that the writer isn’t already hung?

        Besides, TTAC editors know that the proper past tense of the verb hang, when referring to execution, is “hanged”.

  • avatar

    Great. A war torn HellHole can get all the compact pick-ups it wants for under $10k, but I can’t get a 4-door Ranger at any price.

    Somethings not right about that

    • 0 avatar

      Your Government already has military vehicles

    • 0 avatar

      There’s just no point to a compact pickup in North America, not when a used, stripper F-150—of which there’s no shortage—costs the same, and a new truck only a few bucks more.

      Gas would have to be a lot more expensive and roads a lot narrower, for a compact to have a reason to exist.

    • 0 avatar

      You can blame UAW fatties for that. $49-55 an hour for repetitive moevements when some professionals don’t even earn half that.

  • avatar

    I managed to finagle an Iraqi Great Wall for personal use when I was stationed at Camp Taji. It was an awesome truck; four doors, a Chinese diesel, 5 gears and four wheel drive. Never died, never got stuck (even in winter when it rained and turned all the dust into soul-sucking mud). You could tell that it was an early-nineties Hilux, but I didn’t care. Of course it was white with an eighties-red interior – just like every other Great Wall in Iraq.

    I made so much money recovering contractors who’d gotten stuck in their Frontiers in winter. Great truck, absolutely perfect for the discerning warlord on a budget.

  • avatar

    Why do you think that the new trucks have the back lenses out?

  • avatar

    Volvo made a Duett technical for the Swedish military back in the 60s. Factory roof hatch and ring mount up top. Why didn’t they catch on in third world conflicts?

    • 0 avatar

      Price, availability,spares,no fleet discount,lack of advertising in correct markets Jeep made its rep here and LandRover Unimog why would you want a OVLOV

  • avatar

    What does Israel use?

    • 0 avatar

      Automotive Industries Ltd. makes the Storm, an armored Jeep (under license I believe) and the Abir. The upcoming Abir II looks like it’s based on a Dodge Ram heavy duty pickup. Tomcar also makes off road vehicles for the IDF.

  • avatar
    Sam P

    Upside to this is that there won’t be as many Tacomas being exported out of the USA to become technicals, which can only be a plus for those in the USA who might buy a used one down the road.

  • avatar

    Nicely applied graphics on the sides!

    I wonder if A/C comes standard?

  • avatar

    I have not visited Libya in years, but I seem to remember that there was an issue between the Gaddafi Family and Toyota.
    Rumor went that the Gaddafis wanted the brand for themselves but that Toyota had refused because they had signed with another candidate (who kept being arrested and thrown in jail just to teach him a lesson and force him to relinquish the brand.
    Most likely, during pre-sanction times, Toyota did not want to face a PR backlash in the US by supplying a “terrorist state” or Gaddafi and just kept out of the market.
    There were plenty of DANA pick-ups in Tripoli after the US sanctions were lifted but hardly any Toyotas. I guess that the situation has not evolved since.

  • avatar
    M 1

    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!

  • avatar

    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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