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Isuzu Truck SA – A planned strategy for success

The Isuzu 750Isuzu Truck SA – It takes commitment, a long-term view and focused effort to succeed in the SA truck market and road transport industry. And more so for trucks because of big capital investments, expertise and the slow return that eventually comes from doing a good aftermarket job in both parts and service.

Isuzu Truck South Africa is a modern case study of adhering to a strategic plan reflected in the changed market position for the Isuzu truck brand. In eight years, Isuzu Truck SA as increased both market share by 45,5% and unit volumes by 38,3%. During the financial crisis the 2009 truck and bus market fell to 18 934 units – this makes the recovery of Isuzu trucks even more significant:

A dedicated truck manufacturer

Getting focus into Isuzu Trucks was a key factor. The planned journey started with the formation of a local joint venture company, Isuzu Truck South Africa (Pty) Ltd – a 50:50 partnership between General Motors South Africa and Isuzu Motors Limited Japan – assuming full operations as a separate legal entity on 1 January 2007. Isuzu Truck South Africa also moved into new separate headquarters as part of a dedicated focus on Isuzu trucks and customer support.

Invest to grow

Simultaneously the Isuzu Truck national dealer network underwent facility upgrades to the value of some R350 million over a two-year period. This was to match transport operator expectations for dedicated trucking expertise and after-market support to strengthen business relationships in the specialist truck market.

All of this long-term investment was strengthened once more in October 2013 when Isuzu Motors Ltd Japan announced that it would be taking a 70% stake in Isuzu Truck South Africa, with GMSA retaining 30%. In addition to increased local shareholding, R17 million was invested to consolidate the truck assembly line, which is now completely under cover within an area of 27
000m². General Motors moved out completely to their Struandale plant, affording Isuzu the opportunity to house all SKD componentry under cover within the 44 000m² that was shared with GMSA in the past.

Medium truck market 3,5t to 8,5t GVM 9-year trend - 2006-2014

Ramp up quality truck production

Trebling Isuzu Truck sales volumes in the SA market presents a challenge to local assembly to further tighten and improve quality, durability and product reliability with support from superior configuration management.

That is what Isuzu Truck SA have achieved at their Kempston Road plant in Port Elizabeth – from producing 1 271 Isuzu trucks in 2000 to 4 482 units in 2014; and with a forecast to reach 4 400 new Isuzu chassis/cab units again this year, production will have more than trebled.

Employing the latest inverted chassis turning process technique, final assembly rates have moved from a maximum capacity of 13 units/day to 21 units/day with one new chassis cab rolling off the line every 20 minutes.

An Isuzu truck range with unique differentiated features

A fleet of Isuzu trucks

Successful strategy rests on differentiation, and central to any strategic plan is differentiated product. Here Isuzu offer a most comprehensive, differentiated product range with a gross vehicle mass (GVM) and gross combination mass (GCM) for every task – there’s no need to compromise on model choice for any application.

But more importantly, Isuzu has launched new model ranges with class-leading technology. Being the first truck manufacturer to introduce automated manual transmissions (AMT) into medium and heavy trucks up to 16 500kg, GVM was a game-changer in strategic terms.

SA’s truck market has caught on to the many benefits that accrue to AMT technology – lower fuel consumption, reduced maintenance on clutch replacement, less downtime, minimal driveline abuse and improved safety. In turn, 64,4% of Isuzu N-Series units sold in 2014 were AMT equipped models.

The Isuzu N-Series was the first to introduce AMT into medium trucks up to 8500kg GVM and extended this into crew cab models. AMT technology has been introduced – also a market first – into Isuzu F-Series heavy trucks up to 16,5t GVM.

Dominating chassis-cab, forward-control configuration trucks

Strategic success is also built on the cornerstone of ‘not being all things to all people’. The following picture emerges of Isuzu Truck’s leadership position segmenting chassis-cab, forward-control configuration trucks into market brands – excluding panel vans and heavy buses:

Isuzu truck N-Series volume and share

Dominating the forward-cab design truck market does not come from lowest price and a broad-brush approach – success flows out of understanding customer needs and providing trucks that match niche applications to provide lowest cost of ownership.

From the stop-start stress of bakery vans through to the tough demands of refuse compactors – medium, heavy and extra-heavy trucks – Isuzu has a tailor-made spec to match the task. And being consistent in marketing support standards is what customers expect. Isuzu Truck SA have stuck with their class-leading warranty for more than 20 years – an unlimited distance or two-year warranty for all Isuzu trucks.

Chief Operations Officer, Craig Uren, concludes: “We are leading our 35 dealers into the future by example with our focus on Isuzu trucks and truck customers. Our current market position is part of a long-term plan that started prior to our establishment of Isuzu Truck SA in January 2007. There are many market distractions – for example, fear and greed drives the world stock markets. Isuzu Truck SA will stay on our planned course in a volatile truck market.”

Tristan Wiggill
Special Features Editor at Business Fleet Africa