Isuzu meaNs business!

Isuzu meaNs business!

Isuzu Truck South Africa (ITSA) recently invited customers to experience its products (most notably the new N-Series) and hear what it’s been up to. CHARLEEN CLARKE joined the crowd at Tarlton Raceway …

The big news of the day, of course, was the new N-Series. More about that later. First of all we got to listen to Craig Uren, the company’s chief operating officer, who quipped that – with the pouring rain – the company was considering launching marine engines instead of trucks …

But, of course, we were there to celebrate and enjoy trucks … and also to delight in the success of the company and the growth of the market. Referring back to the pessimism of the market at the start of 2013, Uren announced with glee that we are now facing a situation whereby this will be the third or fourth largest market in the history of trucks in this country. “The trucking and logistics business in this country just keeps going on. And I believe it will continue to go on!” Uren noted with delight.

Isuzu has launched AMT for the first time in the 2,5-tonne segment.While the industry as a whole has had a hectic year, so too has ITSA. “We implemented a new business management system 15 months ago and, at the beginning of this year, we acquired the Kempston Road facility, after General Motors disposed of it. We have made huge strides in terms of reducing costs and adding efficiency in the plant,” he revealed.

Productivity has risen by around 50 percent, without adding more staff members, while – thanks to very good planning – the impact of the strike was minuscule and no units were lost from a volume perspective.

The big news, however, was the announcement that Isuzu Motors Limited would be increasing its shareholding in ITSA from 50 to 70 percent (we reported on this news in last month’s FOCUS). General Motors South Africa retains a 30 percent share.

Then it was time to move onto product-related issues. Uren commented that the company’s strategy has been “quite simple” from the very beginning. “We believe in standardising cabs and common seats and doors. The base of the engine remains the same, irrespective of the Euro standard.

We have two engines in the N-Series, two in the F-Series and one in the FX-Series. This really helps our customers and our dealers,” he pointed out.

But ITSA is more than just a supplier of trucks. “Our brand has started to mature and leverage value. We have always positioned ourselves as a provider of after-sales service before we sell a truck. As some of the Chinese brands are finding out, it’s very easy to sell a truck but you need to be there when you have to fix it,” Uren noted.

The strategy is paying off. “Residual values are at an all-time high. And, when it comes to process capability (CPK), we are achieving benchmarks that have never been reached before,” he pointed out.

Then it was over to Anton du Plessis, national sales and distribution manager at ITSA, who took customers through the evolution of the product range. “We have introduced 18 N-Series models in the last five years and 24 F-Series models since 2010. We now have over 40 models on offer!” he pointed out.

Isuzu now offers over 40 models across its N, F and FX ranges.However, as mentioned, the star of the show on the day was the N-Series, and specifically the NMR 250 trucks – now available with Automatic Manual Transmission (AMT) for the first time in the 2,5-tonne payload segment in South Africa. This applies to both the freighter and crew cab derivatives.

An AMT transmission makes sense for two reasons: it reduces costs by as much as R60 000 (by saving three clutch replacements) and it’s also incredibly easy to drive – as I rediscovered later on the race track. Obviously there’s no clutch – power is instead transferred through a fluid coupling – so you can focus on the road ahead.

I was fortunate enough to be hosted by a hugely entertaining cop called Johan (rather oddly there were about six cops there called Johan). But my Johan was special. He told me that he was a vampire (I have no reason to disbelieve him).

Anyway, as we drove down the racetrack, my vampy new mate decided to deliver a commentary on the driving experience. “You see how effortlessly it drives? Woohoo … it’s just like amazing for vampires,” he noted, with an alarmingly insane look on his face.

Well I cannot honestly comment on behalf of vampires. But, for the regular man (or woman) in the street, it’s a wonderfully chilled experience.

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