Of bright models and a brighter future
The Johannesburg International Motor Show (JIMS) was the platform used by Isuzu Truck South Africa to make a very significant announcement about its future – and that future looks exceptionally bright.
Isuzu Truck South Africa, one of the country’s leading original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), has announced the “next logical step” in the brand’s future. As of the end of September, Isuzu Motors Limited has a 70 percent stake in the local operation, with General Motors South Africa (GMSA) retaining 30 percent of the shares.
According to Isuzu Truck South Africa’s COO Craig Uren, the company’s staff and management are excited by this development, which has already resulted in new goals and possibilities. The resulting increase in capital has already been included in Isuzu Trucks’ mid-term business plan.
GMSA retains its 30 percent shareholding to maintain the strong relationship between the two companies, formed originally in 2007. Isuzu Truck South Africa is keen to point out that it is not moving in a direction that will result in ties with GMSA being cut. “We’ve asked GMSA to continue to be involved with Isuzu Truck South Africa as an amicable partner, as we will continue to use GMSA’s infrastructure and resources for parts ordering and receiving, transportation of completed vehicles and vehicle assembly outsourcing,” explains Uren.
“GM has been Isuzu Trucks’ important business partner, and we are not planning to take the business in a different direction,” assures Uren, noting that Isuzu Trucks’ South African business plan has, since 2007, followed a similar path to that of Isuzu Trucks’ Australian development over the past 30 years. There, the company had similarly progressed from being a GM-Holden-owned business, to a joint-venture between Isuzu and GM-Holden, to a majority-owned Isuzu business.
This announcement also marks the culmination of a number of concurrent phases of change within Isuzu Truck South Africa’s local operations, bringing the company in line with its new responsibilities. One of these changes has been the training of recruits from Isuzu Motors, seconded to Isuzu Trucks for training and orientation within the sub-Saharan business environment, ahead of deployment into the region. Here they will play a key role growing the Isuzu Trucks business model.
“With the announcement of the change in local shareholding comes the requirement by Isuzu for Isuzu Truck South Africa to take more responsibility for the sub-Saharan Africa territory, and we’ve got some specific objectives to achieve,” Uren explains. In doing so, the existing export of trucks into right-hand drive neighbouring countries will be enhanced, as Isuzu Trucks will now have more flexibility in terms of matching vehicle specifications to the specific market requirements in various countries. “We aim to enhance the Isuzu sales volume, provide better customer satisfaction, enhance life cycle business and stabilise the business in South Africa by strengthening the connection between Japan and South Africa.”
Uren adds that operations at the company’s assembly plant in Port Elizabeth have been restructured and consolidated, working towards the creation of “a wholly different and more efficient means of production”. The adoption of the Japanese philosophy of Kaizen – translated as “change for the better” – has resulted in cost efficiencies and increased productivity, as well as boosting build capacity with an intense focus on quality.
This quality is evident in Isuzu Trucks’ new N-Series NMR 250 – now exclusively available with Isuzu’s six-speed synchromesh Automated Manual Transmission (AMT), in both Freighter and Crew Cab derivatives. Isuzu Trucks is proud of the fact that this marks the first time that NMR 250 trucks (with a payload of 2,5 tonnes) have been equipped with AMT, where this option was previously only available in its vehicles with payload capacities ranging from three to eight tonnes.
Says Isuzu Truck South Africa’s national sales manager, Anton du Plessis: “Because we’re bringing AMT down into the 2,5-tonne segment, we can now offer smaller operators – who have traditionally been buying bakkies or light commercial vehicles that load just over 1,5 tonnes – a 2,5 tonner that drives effortlessly with AMT.
“This new model should allow us to create new markets that satisfy customers’ needs across both the light- and medium-commercial vehicle segments. Driving a truck has never been so easy and stress free,” he continues.
Naturally, the AMT is well suited to the gruelling stop-start nature of urban applications which the NMR is designed for. According to Tiny Daya, Isuzu Trucks’ product and application manager, the cost benefits are hard to ignore – over its average lifecycle of approximately 300 000 kilometres an AMT transmission reduces costs by as much as R60 000 purely by saving three clutch replacements.
In terms of other specifications, the new AMT-equipped NMR 250s remain identical to their previous manual counterparts. Power is still derived from the same turbocharged and intercooled 3,0-litre common rail diesel engine. Physical dimensions are unchanged. The AMT-equipped NMR 250 is backed up by a standard Isuzu Truck two-year/unlimited kilometre warranty.
There’s no doubt that this model announcement is well timed and suited to the company’s new corporate direction; as it looks to grow its footprint and spread its wings north into sub-Saharan Africa. “This is a feel-good moment for the company against a local context that is full of negatives and economic challenges,” says Uren. “The future for Isuzu Truck South Africa locally is very exciting. We’re all looking forward to it.
“The power of the Isuzu Motors parent company will give us and our customers increased confidence that we’re not flying the Isuzu flag on our own as a territory: we now have the full backing of the whole Isuzu Motors organisation,” he concludes.