Isuzu UK believes it can continue to prosper by serving a broad range of the pick-up market.
Isuzu’s hard-working and capable pick-up truck, the D-Max, achieved a notable hat-trick at the end of last year when it was crowned What Van?’s Pick-up of the Year for the third time in a row.
The D-Max first triumphed in 2018 shortly after it had been revised with a new, downsized, 164hp 1.9-litre four-cylinder diesel engine, which made Isuzu the only pick-up manufacturer to achieve compliance with the Euro6 exhaust emission regulations without having to resort to AdBlue. The D-Max continues to be marketed in single, extended and double-cab guises, which means it has never lost sight of its roots as a traditional workhorse despite the proliferation of more highly specified double-cab versions.
Isuzu UK’s boss William Brown is quick to acknowledge how the manufacturer benefits from What Van?’s endorsement.
“The What Van? Awards are highly regarded and it’s fantastic that the judges have recognised the true extent of the D-Max’s capabilities by presenting us with the Pick-up of the Year award for three consecutive years,” he says.
“All our customers know how the Isuzu is to run and own, but the What Van? Award helps get this message across to new customers.”
Isuzu UK markets a broad range of D-Max models that are split into three categories: the Business Range for the no-nonsense workhorse derivatives that are available in single, extended and double-cab formats and with manual transmission only; the All-Purpose Range, which covers extended and double-cabs and offers the choice of satnav and automatic transmission; and the Adventure Range, which targets the double-cab lifestyle market and houses more deliberately stylish, luxurious models, some of which, like the XTR, started life as limited editions.
The brand also offers a generous selection of conversions, with vehicles customised either with Isuzu accessories, such as Huntsman Pack racking, or through working with converter partners on a diverse range of bodies, from emergency service blue light vehicles to cherry pickers.
Brown reckons about 60% of D-Max trucks undergo some sort of conversion and explains the thinking behind offering such choice: “Pick-up trucks have one of the broadest customer bases of any vehicle type, from hill farmers to lifestyle adventurers, and there’s a huge contrast in their needs and requirements.
“As the pick-up professionals, we aim to address the needs of each customer and, as a result, we’re constantly innovating new solutions, which, as well as highlighting the versatility of the D-Max range, help raise the profile for each customer base.”
An interesting addition to the D-Max recently is a tipper conversion based on used examples of the Utility extended-cab model.
Isuzu UK says the tipper is aimed at customers such as tree surgeons, refuge collectors, landscape architects and construction firms. It expects to take about 200 orders a year with lead times of around four weeks.
Bodybuilder TGS is carrying out the conversion and the tipper will be available through the Isuzu UK dealer network as a used approved conversion. It will come with Isuzu’s usual five-year/125,000-mile warranty and five years’ roadside assistance.
Despite the imminent introduction of tighter emissions rules and the fact that the coronavirus lockdown has decimated sales this year, Brown believes the market will stabilise in the medium term.
“The number of self-employed people grows every year and the lifestyle pick-up truck is the logical choice for this market as it fills the roles of two vehicles perfectly: a work vehicle and a family vehicle. Not many other vehicles can do that,” he says.
From 2021, new emissions rules for LCVs will be based more stringently on the average CO2 taken across each manufacturer’s range of vehicles. Although Isuzu UK is a single product brand, Brown is confident the D-Max can meet the requirements.
“Back in 2017 when Isuzu introduced the all-new 1.9 engine, it was ahead of the times in terms of emission legislation – at launch it achieved Euro6 compliance without the need for AdBlue,” he says.
“As the average emissions come down, this new engine has been designed to keep up with the pace of future legislation requirements.”
Whatever happens to the dual-purpose, double-cab end of the market, Brown reckons demand for working pick-ups will endure.
“Isuzu has always been successful at the utilitarian end of the market,” he points out. “The solid build quality, strong residual values and long load beds of the single and extended cabs appeal well to those who want a tough and practical workhorse.”
But he claims the next-generation D-Max, which is due to arrive in the UK early in 2021, will be much more than a dependable workhorse, and he maintains that, notwithstanding the economic damage caused by the coronavirus lockdown, Isuzu UK is on target to achieve its target of 10,000 sales by 2025.
“We have the right network and right team and, from next year, we’ll also have the most advanced and sophisticated truck on the market.
“It’s a huge step from anything on the market in terms of technology and it inherits the strength and durability of the current model, so we’re confident that we can achieve this very ambitious target.”
Isuzu UK has a commendable reputation for helping out in times of crises and recently it donated three D-Max trucks to support work in converting Birmingham’s NEC into a Nightingale hospital.
Brown says: “Isuzu was firmly committed to helping wherever possible during lockdown and the majority of our dealer workshops remained open for key workers and essential services.
“We decided to stay open in order to help [the] Keep Britain Working [campaign] as many of our customers are farmers and utility companies who form part of the key worker group.”
Brown says it’s difficult to predict the long-term effect of the lockdown but suggests sales of LCVs are likely to be less damaged than those of passenger vehicles.
“For Isuzu, we lean more towards the working customer than the lifestyle customer, so there will always be a demand from our traditional customer base: farmers, trade and fleet. However, overall, we expect for the next two years the total market will be down before returning to pre-Covid-19 volumes.”