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Stand by for ute sales war, sharp discounts

Ute buyers will be spoiled for choice on sharp deals as key models near the end of their run and companies maintain ambitious sales targets
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If you’re in the market for a new ute, the next 18 months is going to be a buyer’s bonanza. Several factors are about to drive prices down and keep deals sharp.

A number of key models are nearing the end of their model cycles and will need to be even more competitive to keep pace with newer rivals.

Because the ute category is one of the segments that remains strong amid a market slowdown — the Toyota HiLux, Ford Ranger and Mitsubishi Triton were the top three sellers outright last month — car companies are going to be putting their marketing dollars behind them.

Which is why the arrival of a new boss at Isuzu Australia is worth noting. News about an executive changeover at a car company might not normally make it beyond the business pages and industry journals, but the company has also announced it plans to hit 30,000 sales next year — following 10 years in a row of continuous sales growth.

The sales target is significant because the D-Max is nearing the end of its 10-year model cycle and an all-new model is due within the next two years.

Dealers will need to offer sharp prices to move metal and compete with newer models. And once Isuzu sharpens its prices, some others such as the Holden Colorado and Nissan Navara — both of which are also approaching the end of their current model cycles — will need to follow suit.

The Isuzu D-Max outsold the Holden Colorado on seven individual months last year — for the first time ever — despite Isuzu having a much smaller dealer network than Holden.

Isuzu Ute Australia’s outgoing managing director, Hiro Kuramoto, said his successor Hiroyasu Sato “will bring a vast amount of knowledge to IUA following 25 years of automotive experience across various international markets which provides me with a huge amount of confidence that he will do a brilliant job in leading IUA’s future success”.

Mr. Sato’s previous international posting was in Thailand as vice-president of the sales arm of the world’s largest Isuzu distributor based out of Bangkok.

“I am looking forward to working with the whole IUA team including the new team of Directors to drive continuous growth and reach the goal of achieving 30,000 units sales of Isuzu D- MAX and MU-X in 2020,” Mr. Sato said in a media statement. Last year Isuzu sold 28,000 vehicles across the D-Max ute and M-UX SUV ranges.

The executive changeover at Isuzu follows a report last week showing the ute brand won “Best of the Best” in the Roy Morgan Customer Satisfaction Awards for 2018, displacing Lexus, which won it the prior year.

This reporter is on Twitter: @JoshuaDowling