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The Ute Challenge

Has anyone else noticed that you can't go anywhere in NZ now and not see a ute with some sort of branding? The flashest suburb in Auckland down to the back blocks have them crawling all over the place. And most of them are diesel (see my other post on that one). Yep I get the argument that they are just a great all round vehicle, but why does my dentist need one? Oh there's no fringe benefit tax (FBT) on them, and you can tow a boat.

A super margin product

Car manufacturers are not stupid people. You don't keep a company going with thousands of employees for 115 years without being smart. So we have seen a gradual (and sometimes not so gradual) tectonic shift from smaller more fuel efficient vehicles in NZ, to larger SUV and ute/pickup truck vehicles being produced and launched. And haven't some of the names just been a marketers playground: Ranger, X-class, Graphite, Special Edition (OK so that sucks), Triton, Wildtrack, Canyon. Now as a guy I can't even say these names without adding some depth to my voice.

There's a reason there has been a shift to these products in my view:

  • the market demands them (everything else is actually irrelevant but bear with me)

  • there is good margin in these vehicles because the extra-testosterone versions with all the extra bits make more margin. That's just smart.

So the car manufacturers are making a product that people want, and they are making good money out of it.

"We have ... successfully transitioned to a crossover- and truck-focused business," Kurt McNeil, U.S. vice president of GM Sales Operations said in a statement to investors in early 2018."

Government Endorsed Technology

So as a result of the FBT benefit, and the fact that utes are just bloody useful, This shift to its has seen the top 10 car choices for Kiwis contain not one or two utes, but six! Of the other four, three were SUV's, with the trusty Toyota Corolla making it too fourth.

But here's my concern. With a good chunk of these large vehicles hitting the road as diesels we are on one hand advertising NZ as a clean and green destination, and on the other hand effectively subsidising technology other parts of the world are rapidly moving to ban. Google search the health issues associated with diesel emissions and you'll see what I mean.

The perfect platform

OK so by this point in the blog you're probably borderline depressed and/or cursing me for singling out the trusty ute. But the ute/pickup truck is the perfect platform to go all-electric. Why? Because:

  • the reason people choose diesel utes is because they like the torque (towing the boat out, trailer, heavy loads). EV's have bucketloads more torque than a Diesel engine could ever have. Period.

  • utes are generally large vehicles. The amount of floor plan and height means you can pack a whole lot of batteries into a ute design. More batteries means more range. And a larger floor plan means larger electric motors which means more torque and faster top speeds.

  • lots and lots of space. Utes are a big vehicle which has a lot of space taken up by transmission, engine etc. Strip that out, put the batteries in the floor and the motors on the axles and BOOM you have a ton of storage space.

So I'm not against the ute AT ALL. I'm just against one that pollutes our atmosphere and shortens our lives and costs our economy a ton of health costs. So PLEASE don't take away the FBT benefits for utes, lets just encourage more companies like Rivian (now funded in part by Amazon) to build the EV ute with:

  • 650km range

  • 0-100km in 3 seconds

  • 4 motors

  • 5 tonne towing capacity

  • 750hp

  • 14,000NM of torque. That is not an error!

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