An all-new range of chassis cabs grossing at from 3.5 to 18 tonnes and including 5.0-, 6.2- and 7.5-tonners has been launched by Isuzu Truck UK, with many key components shared across the range.
“Customers will be able to take delivery of the new 3.5- and 7.5-tonners almost immediately,” says managing director, Nikki King. She was introducing the newcomers to an audience of over 400 dealers and operators corralled in — believe it or not — a circus marquee complete with acrobats and limbo dancers erected in a field in Milton Keynes; one of the most unusual launches What Van? has ever attended.
The move means that Isuzu is venturing above 7.5 tonnes for the first time in Britain. It also involves the use at all weights of a new, roomy, cab attuned to drivers and passengers of European stature.
It's especially impressive on 3.5 tonne chassis, offering as it does generous shoulder room and huge door apertures that make for easier access. Extra room has been created by, among other things, making the A-pillars more vertical.
“More effort has been put into noise suppression too, and the flat front panel should aid signwriting,” says marketing director, Keith Child.
All the new vehicles feature a package of standard equipment that includes electric windows, airbags, a radio/CD player and keyless entry, and all models are covered by the same three year/unlimited mileage warranty. It includes emergency roadside assistance for the duration. A suspended driver's seat is standard at 7.5 tonnes.
Everything bar the Grafter 3.5-tonner — Grafter customers can select either single- or twin-rear-wheels — is marketed under the Forward banner.
In another change, the Grafter badge is being used on all 3.5-tonners. Previously it was only applied to pre-bodied dropsides and tippers at that weight.
A 150hp 3.0-litre diesel is used at 3.5, 5.0 and 6.2 tonnes while the 7.5-tonner takes a 190hp 5.2-litre diesel married as standard to an Easyshift semi-automatic gearbox. A manual gearbox is up for grabs as an alternative.
EGR (Exhaust Gas Recirculation) to help maintain exhaust emissions to Euro-4 requirements is fitted to all Isuzus and certain chassis can be specified with crewcabs.
The new vehicles were exhaustively tested before going on sale. “More prototypes were built and tested more extensively than for any other Isuzu commercial vehicle,” says Kazuharu Shimizu, senior executive officer in charge of the commercial vehicle line at Isuzu Motors Japan. “Over 1.3m test kilometres were completed — equivalent to 33 laps around the world — before they were launched in Japan and this figure has been extended considerably as we've tested further models and variants for many different markets.
“Before we did all that we used Computer Aided Engineering to create over 100 virtual models which we tested for aerodynamics, behaviour in crashes and so on,” he adds.
While Isuzu does not have a really major presence as yet in Britain it's a vast player globally, achieving an annual turnover of £8.5bn and a £500m operating profit.
Its ambition is to reach a £10bn or thereabouts turnover come 2011, a £750m or thereabouts operating profit and exports of 350,000 trucks and 420,000 light commercials. It already makes 1.5m diesel engines annually.
This means that there will be increased pressure on the Hatfield, Hertfordshire-based importer to boost sales. With a wider line-up they should reach 5,000 units over the next three years, says Isuzu Motors Japan executive vice president, Goro Shintani; more than twice this year's planned total and a big ask in what is at present an uncertain economic climate.
“We know this is not an easy target for Isuzu Truck UK, but we firmly believe they can achieve it,” he states.
Isuzu's proactive approach to customer care should help — its customer care team is empowered to put right any problem the customer has with the vehicle, the body or the service that's been provided, and pursue the matter until it's been resolved — as should the strengthening of its dealer network. With 30 dealers selling vehicles and 45 providing aftersales support, it now embraces companies such as A M Phillip in Scotland and Norfolk Trucks in East Anglia; high-profile names in the markets they serve.
Isuzu's Rodeo range of pick-ups is distributed separately in the UK by IM Group and sold through a separate dealer network.
Isuzu Truck UK has slowly, but surely been building its business and reputation, and the arrival of a far wider range of vehicles can only be good for business.