Isuzu’s non-truck products have been on sale for decades in Australia, once wearing Holden badges. Remember the Jackaroo SUV and Rodeo ute, precursor to today’s Colorado?
But the brand has only eponymously sold its wares here as Isuzu Ute for about a decade, over which time it has become a genuinely mainstream, successful player in a hyper-competitive market, appealing to those after hardcore machines capable of copping a beating.
The company leverages an Isuzu N Series truck-sourced 3.0-litre turbo diesel engine, which may produce less power and torque than some rivals, but which is designed to go on and on... and on.
Coming from a low base in 2008, the company has posted nine consecutive years of double-digit growth in Australia, which is now its single largest export market anywhere in the world.
Isuzu Ute Australia (IUA) has sold more than 125,000 D-Max utes and MU-X SUVs since launch, from a worldwide export haul of 1.8 million units, while growing its sales and service dealer network from 38 sites to 141.
For background: In its core country of Thailand — the world’s biggest one-tonne pickup market — Isuzu dominates, with the D-Max and its Toyota HiLux rival owning a staggering 70 per cent market share between them.
Meanwhile, the grey nomad-focused MU-X SUV’s sales almost doubled between 2014-17, and it constantly outsells the Mitsubishi Pajero Sport, Ford Everest, Toyota Fortuner and the related Holden Colorado — all products of much larger brands.
Indeed, after the Toyota Prado and LandCruiser, the MU-X is the country’s most popular ‘proper’ body-on-frame SUV, though base versions are RWD. Considering IUA is a relative minnow with just two products, this is quite notable.
In 2020 IUA wants 30,000 annual sales, by which point it will be gearing up to launch the next generation D-Max, which will form the basis of the next Mazda BT-50. The Mazda will use Isuzu’s chassis and engine, but have its own interior and exterior design.
“Our recent sales achievements in Australia have been duly recognised and the growing management team here is now well positioned to drive the brand forward into its next stage of growth,” said Isuzu Ute Australia managing director, Hiro Kuramoto.
IUA is also in the process of opening new regional offices in Sydney and Melbourne to complement its Brisbane HQ, and wants to make sure those 141 dealerships get more training to file away any rough edges.
The take-away is this: Isuzu Ute is a relative minnow globally, but it’s a substantial player in Australia that finds ways to grow year-on-year, capitalising on segment growth in utes and SUVs, the only two segments in bothers with.
Do you own an Isuzu D-Max or MU-X? Or even an old Jackaroo/Rodeo? Let us know about your experience below.
MORE: Ute comparison 2018: Ford Ranger v Toyota HiLux v Mitsubishi Triton v Nissan Navara v Holden Colorado v Isuzu D-MAX v Mazda BT-50 v Volkswagen Amarok
MORE: Isuzu news, reviews, comparisons and videos