A ute ( YOOT), originally an abbreviation for "utility" or "coupé utility", is a term used in Australia and New Zealand to describe vehicles with a tonneau behind the passenger compartment, that can be driven with a regular driver's license.
Traditionally the term referred to vehicles built on passenger car chassis and with the cargo tray integrated with the passenger body. However, present-day usage of the term "ute" in Australia and New Zealand has expanded to include any vehicle with an open cargo area at the rear; which would be called a pickup truck in other countries.
The Australian ute is claimed to have been invented by Ford in 1934; however, similar vehicles had been in production in the United States since the 1920s. Production of Australian designed utes ceased in 2017, when local production of the Holden Commodore finished.
Historically, the term "ute" (short for 'utility vehicle') has been used to describe a 2-door vehicle based on a passenger car chassis, such as the Holden Commodore, Australian Ford Falcon, Chevrolet El Camino and Subaru BRAT. Australian produced utes were traditionally rear-wheel drive and with the cargo tray integrated with the passenger body (as opposed to a pickup truck, where the cargo tray is separated from the passenger body).
The concept of a two-door vehicle based on a passenger car chassis with a tray at the rear began in the United States in the 1920s with the roadster utility (also called "roadster pickup" or "light delivery") models. These vehicles were soft-top convertibles, compared with the fixed steel roof used by most utes.
Ford Australia is claimed to be the first company to produce an Australian "ute", which was released in 1934. This was the result of a 1932 letter from the unnamed wife of a farmer in Australia asking for "a vehicle to go to church in on a Sunday and which can carry our pigs to market on Mondays". In response, Ford designer Lew Bandt designed a two-door body with a tray at the rear for the American Ford Model A chassis, and the model was named "coupe utility". When the Australian version was displayed in the US, Henry Ford nicknamed it the "Kangaroo Chaser". A convertible version, known as the roadster utility was produced in limited numbers by Ford in the 1930s.
In 1951, Holden released a "utility" model, which was based on the 48-215 sedan. With both Ford and Holden now producing utes, this started the long-standing tradition of Australian-designed 2 door vehicles with a tray at the back, based on a passenger-car sedan chassis.
Australia has developed a culture around utes, particularly in rural areas with events known as Ute musters. It is common, particularly in rural areas, to customise utes in the "B&S style" with bullbars, spotlights, oversized mudflaps, exhaust pipe flaps and UHF aerials. Since 1998, the "Deni Ute Muster" has been held in the town of Deniliquin, which has become a major attraction for the area.
High performance utes were also sold in Australia, including the FPV F6 and the HSV Maloo. The 2017 HSV GTSR Maloo is powered by a 6.2 L (378 cu in) supercharged V8 engine producing 425 kW (570 hp).
The Australian V8 Utes is a racing series based on lightly modified production Holden and Ford utes.
The ute variant of the Ford Falcon was produced from 1961-2016. For the first 38 years, the design used a monocoque chassis, which is the traditional design for a ute. Since the 1999 AU Falcon, the Falcon ute switched to a cargo bed that is separate from the cabin, while still retaining the Falcon sedan front-end and cabin. The cargo bed was separated so that both "utility" and "cab chassis" body styles could be produced together. This separate cab-chassis design challenged the notion that the word "ute" referred to a monocoque body style.
Utes produced by Ford in Australia:
From 1951-1968, the "utility" was sold as part of the 48-215 to HR model ranges. From 1968-1984 the "utility" was included in the Holden Belmont/Kingswood range. In 1984, Holden discontinued the ute variant and it was not part of the VB to VL Commodore ranges. The model returned in 1990 based on the VN Commodore chassis and remained part of the model range until Australian production ended in 2017. In 2000, the Holden Commodore was the first Australian ute to feature independent rear suspension, the Ford Falcon ute retained a live axle rear suspension design until production ended in 2016.
In 2008, the VE Commodore Ute was proposed to be exported to North America as the Pontiac G8 ST. At least one prototype was built, but GM decided not to proceed with production due to the Global Financial Crisis.
Utes produced by Holden or its parent company General Motors in Australia:
Between 1971-2008 Nissan sold the Nissan Sunny Truck as a ute in Australia.
Between 2002-2010, the Proton Jumbuck was sold in Australia as a ute.
Perhaps the best known ute produced by a Japanese manufacturer is the Subaru Brumby, a small AWD model derived from the second generation Leone. It was sold between 1978-1993 and known as the BRAT, Shifter, MV, and Targa in countries other than Australia. It is relatively well known due to its long production life and use in popular culture. It was built in Japan, but never sold there.
Between 1960 and 1970, Toyota sold a ute variant of the second- and third-generation Corona with an integral bed. It was sold alongside its eventual replacement, the Toyota Hilux, for a couple of years before it was discontinued. Toyota also sold a locally produced CKD ute based on the second- and third-generation Crown (also known as S40 and S50), assembled by Australian Motor Industries.