Only a few short years ago the figure of 10,000 new truck sales annually seemed wildly ambitious.
Yet Isuzu is tracking well enough to potentially surpass 14,000 units into the Australian market during 2023. Should it do so it will also mark the brand’s 35th consecutive year of market leadership.
The company has a clear vision of utilising practical innovation to maintain its leading position and has the strategies in place to back this up.
“Post-pandemic the performance of the market, the demand for road transport solutions and the confidence in our sector have been nothing short of remarkable,” says Isuzu Australia Limited Director and Chief Operating Officer Andrew Harbison.
“It’s not enough for us to focus on being number one. We are continually challenging ourselves and striving to be the best in the totality of our relationships and our offer to the Australian road transport industry.”
Recognising that developing and selling its trucks are but the early steps in the long-term journey, Isuzu is revamping its Isuzu Care customer support program.
“We talk amongst ourselves until we are blue in the face about the importance of supporting our customers both before, during, and after the sale,” says Andrew.
Connectivity is emerging as an important element as trucks move further into the era of e-mobility and it is through a connected vehicle that owners can fully realise the operational insights and efficiencies available from their trucks and Isuzu has been incorporating sophisticated electronic hardware with the necessary software to enhance the management of fleets as well as individual vehicles.
Integral with the design and development of current and future models, Isuzu will consider four key factors: carbon neutrality, driver comfort, safety, and connectivity.
During the next few years Isuzu will make available a portfolio of powertrains from Battery Electric and Fuel Cell Electric to hydrogen internal combustion.
For its low and zero emission vehicles it is imperative to strike the balance between being environmentally responsible while remaining financially viable.
Isuzu revealed its new look N Series and F Series ranges in Japan back in April, featuring the first new major cab designs in 17 years, and included the first of its OEM-developed electric vehicles which use modular technology to utilise between three and five battery packs.
On display in Brisbane was the Japanese specification electric N Series and Isuzu has made it clear that locally its initial foray into the EV market will be for a heavier 4,500-7,500kgs GVM with an operating range of between 150-200kms making it suitable for last mile deliveries and local government applications.
Local trials of the EV models are scheduled to commence in the fourth quarter of this year. Arrangements to jointly develop and share technologies is becoming more common among global OEMs and Isuzu and Honda will collaborate to supply a fuel cell system for a heavy-duty Isuzu truck planned to be introduced to the Japanese market in 2027.
Another example of joint venture outcomes has been the announcement of the new Isuzu and UD Trucks collaboratively-developed prime mover.
This is the first truck developed since UD joined the Isuzu organisation in 2021 and was recently released in Japanese domestic specification. We can expect to see the progressive release of similar products across other markets including Australia in due course.
Noteworthy, this is the first time the Volvo 13-litre engine has been available for either an Isuzu or UD branded product.
The power and torque ratings of the 13-litre engine, combined with the Volvo Group I-Shift/ESCOT automated manual transmission, and Japanese build quality, should be very suitable for applications in Australia including in 6×4 prime mover configuration.
These trucks will be available in Japan later in 2023 and will be sold under both brands, and consideration is currently being undertaken to assess what will be the best case for distribution in other markets, including Australia.
“The clear strategy from the global point of view is the best way to get the best product is to work together on delivering a product that shares basic driveline fundamentals,” says Andrew. “How we differentiate that is being worked through. We’re very keen to have the 13-litre.”
It’s one thing to get the hardware right but customers now expect a higher level of support for their vehicles.
Recognising this, Isuzu engaged in extensive research about customer expectations, particularly in relation to Isuzu Care which was launched in 2006. This acknowledgment of the importance of its customer support program has proved to be a differentiator and enables Isuzu to claim a superior total solution offering to the market.
During 2023 a national training update involved every Isuzu dealer principal, along with every care specialist, sales, service, and parts managers across the country.
This program has been supported by web-based training for all remaining staff to ensure that everyone who wears an Isuzu badge has the right Isuzu Care approach.
“There is certainly plenty going on globally,” says Takeo “Tak” Shindo Managing Director and CEO of Isuzu Australia. “The world has changed significantly, so has Isuzu. The Isuzu brand has never been in a stronger position. We are choosing our future and I can assure you it is very bright.”