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Isuzu Celebrates 80 Year Anniversary with Customers

Port Elizabeth – It’s a year of celebration for Isuzu Motors Limited of Japan as it commemorates the establishment of the company in April 1937. Locally, Isuzu will celebrate with customers at Isuzu dealers across the country on Saturday 22 April. “Isuzu National Dealer Day” will see customers and fans of the brand descend on participating Isuzu dealerships all over South Africa. In addition to celebrating this key milestone, Isuzu will reveal the recently introduced X-Rider model to customers.

  • April 22nd is Isuzu national dealer day at Isuzu dealers across the country
  • More than a century of automotive history
  • 40 years of Light Commercial Vehicle production in South Africa

“Isuzu has a strong heritage and a firmly established reputation as a manufacturer of rugged and reliable commercial vehicles. This year while we are celebrating the brand’s long history we are also focused on the future as we reveal the new X-Rider. Isuzu continues to charge ahead in pursuit of reliability, durability, and eco-friendliness. Engineered in South Africa, the Isuzu KB continues to set new standards of durability, balanced design and meticulous attention to detail,” says Mlungisi Nonkonyana, Isuzu Brand Manager.

A Brief History

Isuzu is a Japanese vehicle and engine manufacturing company headquartered in Tokyo.

The company’s roots can be traced back more than a century, to 1916 when the Tokyo Ishikawajima Shipbuilding and Engineering Company Limited was formed. It started out building trucks under licence from British company, Wolseley.

There were various acquisitions and mergers in the 1930s and 1940s, resulting in the eventual formation of Isuzu Motors Limited – Isuzu also being the name of a Japanese river. Translated into English it means ‘Fifty Bells”.

Isuzu Motors' Isuzu KBs on a Sand dune

Enduring Love Affair with the Diesel Engine

Isuzu established a diesel research committee in 1934 and poured its energies into the development of diesel engines, a technology that had not yet been commercially established even in the advanced nations of Europe and North America. In 1936 the company introduced the air-cooled 5,3-litre DA6 diesel engine, followed three years later by the DA4, which went on to serve as the foundation of all later generations of Isuzu diesel engines.

These were Japan’s first commercial diesel engines and marked a breakthrough in the history of diesel engine development. Automobile Industries was merged with two other companies into Tokyo Automobile Industries Company Limited in 1937 and in 1941 the Japanese government designated the company as the only one permitted to manufacture diesel-powered vehicles. The company was renamed Isuzu Motors Limited in 1949 and established itself as an industry leader in diesel engine technology.

Since then, the company has supplied industrial engines for various types of applications, including construction machinery, generators, and even snow vehicles to be used for expeditions in the harsh and precarious conditions of the South Pole, maintaining a strong reputation among industrial machinery manufacturers both in Japan and overseas.

Isuzu Motors in South Africa

The South African Isuzu story started in the early 1970s with the launch of the Chevrolet LUV (Light Utility Vehicle), in essence the first Isuzu ‘bakkie’ which was imported from Japan. Local production of the LUV commenced in 1972 at the Kempston Road plant in Port Elizabeth and in 1973 Isuzu-based trucks were introduced for the first time.

The KB nomenclature which is unique to South Africa was first introduced when the facelifted LUV was released in 1979, but this time branded as an Isuzu KB. The following year saw the South African introduction of the Isuzu KB40, the first petrol and diesel powered four-wheel drive pick-up from Japan.

By the start of the 1980s, Isuzu led the global industry in the field of direct-injection diesel engines for light trucks, and in 1981 introduced a design that featured both high output and low fuel consumption and led the way with technology that made diesels more user-friendly.

Now in its 6th Generation, the Isuzu KB continues the legacy established by the LUV as a refined and dependable product engineered to suit the fast-changing needs of South African consumers.

Isuzu has produced almost 25-million diesel engines and its pick-ups are available in over 100 countries.

Tristan Wiggill
Special Features Editor at Business Fleet Africa