Isuzu stays ahead of the game

When the new ADR 80/02 Isuzu range was launched back in 2007, its low emission status was noted but not seen as groundbreaking. However, when we come to look at the launch of the new ADR 80/03 range for 2011, we can see just how far ahead of its competitors Isuzu was at the time. While other manufacturers are having to completely revamp the range for the new exhaust emission regulations in 2011, Isuzu is simply making a few adjustments and improvements where needed.

The new Euro 5 range from Isuzu not only meets the stringent controls on nitrogen oxides and particulate matter specified in ADR 80/03 but also, in many cases, the much stricter European standard known as EEV. Again, this sees Isuzu coming in with trucks which meet the Australian standards with ease and sees the Japanese importer among the leaders in environmentally responsible truck design.

“Back in 2007, our decision to go Euro paid immediate dividends with environmentally conscientious operators sitting up and taking notice,” says Phil Taylor, Isuzu Director Sales and Marketing. “We also benefited from government bodies requiring Euro 4 as a minimum, specifying it in their fleet tenders.”

In many cases, as you look through the Isuzu range, it’s simply a matter of business as usual. Without the need to struggle to fit new engines and new technology onto its trucks, the company has been able to concentrate on developing its product, offering new models and adapting its range to further suit the requirements of the Australian market.

If there is one aspect of the Isuzu range which has a clear need to be modernized, it is in respect of the Giga cabin for the heavy end of the heavy-duty range. This looks to be on its way to the Australian market sometime after 2012, although the release of the new cab may take even longer as there is no sign of a new model on the Japanese market any time soon.

The strength of the Isuzu range is its coverage. It supplies a truck for just about every application. The company uses all of its experience and knowledge of the truck market to constantly tinker with specifications and introduce innovation to tailor trucks precisely to customer requirements.

This is what Isuzu is doing in this round of model changes. There are improvements throughout the range as technology becomes available from Japan or becomes more important to Australian truck buyers. In some cases specifications have been developed for one of its global markets that also suit Australian conditions. This is what has happened with the new FX range, with new simpler technology being introduced.

In order to meet the requirements of Euro 5, the innovations in the specification of the N and F Series have undergone a number of small changes. All of the engine control modules have had their software amended to meet the new requirements and the cooling of the EGR system has been upgraded. The injection pressures have increased and three models, NLR, NLS and NRR, have an additional fuel cooler and primary fuel filter.

In terms of new models, the changes are very few on the ground. In the N Series there are two new tipper models, the NLS 200 and the NLR 275. Alongside this there is the introduction of a new crew cab configuration for the NLS 200. Taper leaf front springs have been added to the NPR 300, 400 and NQR 450 models. This increases capacity by 30% and improves ride within the cabin.

N Series also sees the fitting of passenger airbags as standard on all new models and the cab is now compliant with the ECE 29 cab strength standard. With all NH model now certified to ECE R29, this means just about all of the Isuzu range is now certified to meet the European cab strength test.

“To get to the exhaust emission levels we have reached, we have made a number of changes to technology fitted to the engines,” says Colin White, Isuzu Manager Product Planning & Engineering Support. “The engines have more efficient EGR coolers or additional coolers. Some of the engines have a larger particulate filter and on some of the models like the NH we have a primary fuel filter and a fuel cooler. So really, there is very little change to our product as we move on to Euro 5. In many cases performance hasn’t changed with power and torque remaining the same.”

When it comes to the medium-duty segment, this is the area where Isuzu is becoming ever more dominant. It has increased market share considerably and seen, once close rival Hino, slip back from contention for the number one slot in the sector.

There are a number of additions to the F Series range including the introduction of an FSR X–Long with an extra long wheelbase at 6500mm. There is also a single cab FTR 900 Medium Long and the FVR 1000 Auto.
At the heavier end of the F Series, the FX range, a new engine has been introduced that will be known as the Sitec Series lll 256 kW. This brings an increase in power over its predecessor and includes a Diesel Oxidation Catalyst (DOC) to clean up the emissions to meet the requirements of Euro V.

“On the FX models we have made a change, we have gone to a 350hp rating,” says Colin. “The engine block is the same but it doesn’t have a Diesel Particulate Diffuser (DPD), but has a Diesel Oxidation Catalyst (DOC). When you look at the torque and power curves for this new engine, it’s a little bit stronger at the top end.”

Examination of the power and torque curves sees the peak in power increase sharply up to 2000rpm before falling away and the torque holding on at a higher level than its predecessor, still maintaining 1250Nm at 2000rpm. Unlike the DPD, the DOC cleans up the emissions by a continuous process with the catalyst not requiring any regeneration. The DOC is also 20kg lighter than the DPD option.

There are no changes to the 455hp and 510hp engines used in the Giga range. When they were introduced back in 2007 they were already compliant with ADR 80/03 by meeting the requirements of the Japanese NLT 05 emission levels. This has allowed Isuzu to keep its powder dry on any future development of its heavy-duty contender.

The company is keeping quiet about any future developments in the Giga range but it currently has the look of an ageing design coming to the end of its development cycle. We can be sure a company like Isuzu, with its ambitions in the heavy-duty sector, will be working hard behind the scenes to come up with a viable bunch of models to take it into the next ten years and expand its considerable penetration into heavy-duty sales.

When we look at Isuzu here in Austrralia, we see an organisation at the top of its game. It has come out of the global economic crisis with increased market share all round. The range is comprehensive and covers just about all of the bases when it comes to specification. It is also now becoming a leader in the emerging preference for low emission trucks. Isuzu is able to emphasise the claims of the trucks because they meet this much more stringent EEV exhaust emission standard.

The prediction for the truck market in the next few years is one of steady sales figures with a relatively low level of growth for some time. We are not going to see the kinds of boom times we saw just a few years ago with records being broken every month. The GFC has introduced a modicum of rationality into the truck buying public with hard buying decisions based on cold figures. Isuzu has kept to that ‘steady-as-she-goes’ attitude in its new model range and seems confident of retaining market leadership for some time to come.

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