Australia is now the world’s largest export market for Isuzu’s light commercial and SUV range, comprising the D-Max ute and MU-X wagon.
Isuzu Ute Australia’s 23,377 sales last year — the eighth consecutive year in which it posted double-digit growth — allowed it to overtake Saudi Arabia, and best a further 120-odd nations.
Only the Thailand market, where Isuzu Motors International Operations produces all its vehicles, accounts for a greater proportion of the company’s volume.
All told, Isuzu Ute Australia is about to complete 100,000 sales here since 2008, and now boasts 130 dealers in its nationwide network, with a particularly strong reach into its regional and remote strongholds.
For context, since the first-generation D-Max launched globally in 2003 (a car sold here as the Holden Rodeo), the company has exported to the world a grand total of 1.6 million units.
Historically, the Thai market has accounted for more than half its global volumes, but this proportion has steadily flipped the other way.
Isuzu Ute Australia’s D-Max sales have grown from 5000 in 2008, through to 16,400 in 2016 (up in turn from 14,600 the year before that). Last year the D-Max was number-three in 4x2 ute sales behind the HiLux and Ranger, and number-six in 4x4, ahead of the BT-50 and Amarok.
The MU-X off-roader has arguably been the bigger surprise, still holding onto number two in its sub-segment behind only the Mitsubishi Pajero Sport, and hitting more than 7000 sales last year, up from 4625 in 2014 and 6344 in 2015.
Last year, the only rival large SUVs that outsold it here were the Toyota Prado and Kluger, Holden Captiva and Hyundai Santa Fe.
“Frankly it [the sales success] was a surprise to me,” admitted Isuzu Ute Australia’s managing director Yasuhiro Takeuchi this week.
Sales for the brand are down this year, but due only to lack of stock, as it switches over the updated MY17 product, with a more powerful new 430Nm Euro 5 3.0-litre diesel engine and other improvements. The D-Max has launched, and the quieter, better-equiped new MU-X is about to, this week.
Isuzu Motors — the umbrella of Isuzu’s light commercial divisions — is the world’s biggest diesel engine manufacturer, has produced 26 million units, and tops truck sales in 36 countries. The company is probably better known for trucks like the N Series.