We often have to wait a while for vehicles dropped off overseas to make their way to Australia.
For every vehicle like the first-generation Kia Niro, which arrived just a year before its replacement date, there are a few vehicles that we end up losing an entire generation of.
In some cases, this is because the vehicle was only ever designed for another market, or was not produced in right-hand drive. In other cases, it’s because the local division of the company doesn’t see a place for the vehicle.
In this article, we’ll look at some examples of where we’ve missed generations of vehicles that ended up being bestsellers… once they got here.
Ford has offered the Everest in Australia since 2015 as a wagon version of the popular Ranger. Prior to that, the Blue Oval brand offered the Raider from 1991 to 1996, the rebadged Mazda Proceed Marvie and thus the wagon version of the Ford Courier/Mazda B-Series twins.
But there’s a missing link here, and that’s the first-generation Everest. Offered from 2003 to 2015, the Everest – known in some markets as the Endeavor – is a Ranger-based SUV designed for the southeast Asian market.
Unveiled at the Bangkok motor show in 2003, the Everest cost US$100 million to create. Built in Thailand and assembled from completely knockdown (CKD) kits in India and Vietnam, the Everest retains the 1998 vintage ute styling from the B-pillar forward but incorporates a wagon rear with a third row of seats.
However, it retains the Ranger’s live rear axle and leaf springs, unlike the second-generation Everest which was upgraded to coil springs. All up, it measures 4958mm long, 1805mm wide and 1835mm tall on a 2860mm wheelbase.
Engines consist of a naturally aspirated 2.6-litre four-cylinder petrol engine and a 2.5-litre turbo diesel four, with a choice of rear or four-wheel drive with selectable low-range gearing.
The Everest received several facelifts during its run, usually to visually align it with the related Ranger. It never came here, however – Ford had the US-sourced Explorer and then the Territory to offer buyers looking for a three-row SUV.
With local manufacturing ending, Ford Australia needed a replacement for the Territory and so developed the second-generation Everest, which continues to be manufactured in Thailand but is now exported here.
Before the Caddy was a van derived from the Golf, it was a ute derived from the Golf.
Known as the Rabbit Pickup in the US, where the Golf was built and sold as the Rabbit, the compact ute was introduced in 1979 and offered a 1.83m long bed.
As a car-derived ute, it has little direct competition other than the Subaru Brat (aka Brumby); The Dodge Rampage/Plymouth Scamp wouldn’t arrive until the 1980s.
The Pennsylvania-built Rabbit pickup gave birth to the Caddy in 1982, built in Sarajevo until 1992 when war broke out; it is also produced in South Africa, where the small bakki is popular.
Amazingly, it continued to be produced in South Africa until 2007. Even better, it was outlived by the Mk1 Golf-based Citi Golf, which finally went out of production in 2009.
Volkswagen cited worldwide sales of 207,000 vehicles for the first generation Caddy.
Confusingly, the second-generation Caddy in Europe is actually two separate models, both rebadges of existing vehicles in the Volkswagen Group empire.
The new Caddy ute, introduced in 1996, is a Skoda Felicia Utility with a Volkswagen badge plastered on it, and is sourced from the same Czech factory as Skoda.
The other Caddy is a bulbous van, manufactured in Spain. This is a rebadged SEAT Inca, a van version of the SEAT Cordoba and similar styling to the Holden Barina/Opel Corsa-derived Combo.
The Volkswagen brand also repositioned the Cordoba sedan and wagon as the Polos in Europe, and hatched the Ibiza as the Polo Playa in South Africa.
The new van produced a people mover variant in 1997, rivaling cars like the Citroen Berlingo Multispace. In total, the various second-generation Caddy models together with their SEAT and Skoda siblings accounted for 520,000 sales.
With the third-generation Caddy, introduced in 2003, the vehicle was once again based on the Golf. Production moved to Poland, and exports began to Australia.
The first Toyota Camry was introduced here in 1983 as an imported front-wheel drive five-door hatchback, sold alongside the more conservative rear-wheel drive Corona. This was the first generation Camry, and entered production in 1982, with other markets also receiving the four-door sedan.
However, this is not the first vehicle to use the Camry name. This model was pre-dated by the short-lived Celica Camry sedan, introduced in 1980 and sold exclusively in Japan.
Toyota has a strong Japanese dealer network with separate channels. As of 2020, only certain Toyota vehicles are sold in each channel, and for most vehicles Toyota will usually do a subtly different version to distribute in each dealer channel.
For example, while we receive the Cressida here, Japanese customers have the option of this along with the Chaser and Cresta’s subtly different relationships.
So the Celica Camry is just a mid-size sedan version of the Carina for Toyota Corolla Store dealerships in the land of the rising sun.
It was sold alongside the two-door Celica which, although mechanically related, looked quite different. It also gives dealers a larger sedan than the Corolla to sell.
The Celica Camry is almost indistinguishable from the Carina in appearance, perhaps most easily identified by the distinctive T on the grille. The range consists of 1.6-, 1.8- and 2.0-litre four-cylinder engines, and most models feature live rear axles.
High-spec variants such as the sporty 2000GT are upgraded to four-wheel independent suspension with a semi-trailing arm arrangement at the rear.
The Celica Camry is effectively a stopgap model, with the Camry replacing it at Toyota Corolla Store dealerships. True to form, Toyota also introduced a mildly restyled version of the new front-wheel drive model called Vista, offered through its Vista dealerships.
To date, this is the only generation of Celica ever offered with four doors.
Although the Lexus ES is not a top 10 seller in Australia, it is one of the more popular vehicles in its segment. It’s the second vehicle the brand has launched locally and remains a consistent presence in Lexus showrooms in Australia, but we missed a few generations.
Although the ES debuted locally in 1992, the nameplate first appeared in the US in 1989 with the ES250.
Lexus has been developed with the US market in mind, with the LS400 designed to take on the best luxury sedans from Germany. But Toyota apparently didn’t want to introduce the brand with just one model, so the LS came with the ES250, the Japanese-market version of the Toyota Camry Prominent.
The SC Coupe, known as the Toyota Soarer in Japan, followed in 1991.
Nissan did the same with Infiniti, also launched in 1989 with a specially designed flagship sedan (Q45) plus several more affordable models. But like the Infiniti M30 (Nissan Leopard in Japan), the Lexus ES250 is an older vehicle.
The V20 series Toyota Camry and its spin-offs entered production in 1986, so the ES250 is a vehicle halfway through its model cycle. It also looks uncomfortably Camry-like, and is the only front-wheel-drive Lexus.
It’s at least based on a unique “hardtop” sedan body style not offered by the Toyota brand in the US, and ditches the four-cylinder engine for a standard 116kW 2.5-litre V6 mated to a five-speed or four-speed manual. automatic.
It undercuts the Acura (née Honda) Legend by around US$3000, although it is $5000 more expensive than the Camry V6. US buyers do get the full range of power accessories, extra muffler and real birds-eye maple trim, as well as the Lexus dealer experience, but that’s a steep premium for a vehicle that’s essentially mechanically identical. The more expensive LS400 ended up outselling it by more than 2 to 1.
The second-generation ES will stick with the Camry’s front-wheel drive and mechanicals, but it has dramatically different styling than Toyota’s more affordable relationship; it was sold as the Windom in Japan, where Lexus would not exist as its own brand until 2005.
We received every generation of ES up to the fifth generation in 2006. Sales of the awkwardly styled fourth-generation model faltered in Australia, and the fifth-generation model was eventually produced in left-hand drive only.
Lexus clearly envisions it has its sedan base covered with the IS and GS at this end of the market; The ES, unlike that, is front-wheel drive and more focused on comfort, derived from the Toyota Camry and aimed primarily at the US market.
The fifth-generation ES uses a more powerful 203kW 3.5-litre V6 engine, although a 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine is offered in some Asian markets. It is the first generation ES with features such as adaptive cruise control, a panoramic sunroof and rain-sensing wipers, among others.
The ES is Lexus’ second best-selling vehicle worldwide, and Lexus decided to reverse course with the sixth generation and once again build it in right-hand drive. Now sharing its underpinnings with the Toyota Avalon, the ES returns to Australia and offers an available hybrid powertrain.
Lexus is now entering its seventh-generation ES which, following the global discontinuation of the GS and the local IS being discontinued due to stricter safety standards, is now the brand’s only sub-LS sedan in the country.