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ISUZU Trucks: A 60-Year Legacy on Wheels

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In the world of commercial vehicles, few names resonate as strongly as ISUZU. Renowned for their durability, innovation, and reliability, ISUZU trucks have been integral to the automotive landscape since 1934. From humble beginnings to a dominant global force, ISUZU’s journey is a testament to engineering excellence and visionary leadership.

As ISUZU celebrates 60 years in 2024, we explore its rich history, tracing its evolution from early models to modern powerhouses and highlighting key milestones that solidified ISUZU’s reputation as a leader in the commercial vehicle industry.

Expansion and innovation

By 1964, ISUZU had made its mark internationally. Stanley Motors Organisation, renowned for representing Peugeot and the British Rootes Group, introduced the ISUZU Elfin TKG 10 petrol-engine 1½ tonner in South Africa. 

In the late 1960s, the ISUZU truck range expanded significantly. By 1968, the company introduced the bonneted TXD and TWD series and the forward-control TD 80E, all powered by diesel engines with Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM) ratings from 7½ to 15½ tons. 

Establishing roots in South Africa

In the 1970s, ISUZU deepened its integration into the South African market. A 1971 partnership with General Motors South Africa (GMSA) led to GM acquiring a 34.2% interest in ISUZU Motors Ltd. By 1972, the LUV 1-ton pick-up was introduced under the Chevrolet name, with local production starting in Gqeberha (formerly Port Elizabeth) by October. 

ISUZU’s innovation continued with the 1975 launch of the SBR422, featuring a high-speed direct injection diesel engine. The 1980s saw ISUZU solidifying its dominance. The second-generation ISUZU KB pick-up, launched in 1981, was the first to feature rack and pinion steering and independent front suspension, selling 3,890 units in South Africa that year. The 1982 introduction of the ISUZU WFR long-wheelbase high-roof panel van and 16-seater minibus further diversified the lineup.

By the decade’s end, ISUZU launched the third-generation KB pick-up in 1989, catering to various market needs. Since its introduction, GM South Africa has sold over 80,000 KBs, highlighting the model’s popularity and reliability.

Market leadership

The 1990s and 2000s marked significant evolution and market leadership for ISUZU. The 1993 introduction of the Turbo Blazer KB, the first South African turbocharged petrol-engine bakkie, was a key innovation. By 1997, the fourth-generation ISUZU KB pick-up became the top-selling one-ton pick-up in South Africa for two consecutive years.

In the new millennium, ISUZU continued to innovate with the FVZ1400 6×4 model in 2001 and the fifth-generation KB in 2004, supported by investments in tooling and facilities. 

The 2010s brought further achievements. In 2010, the ISUZU KB set a world record at the 72 Hour Endurance challenge, showcasing ISUZU’s engineering prowess. The 2013 launch of the sixth-generation KB marked another milestone, excelling in quality and performance as recognized by the IPSOS Quality Awards.

Number one, 11 years running

ISUZU Trucks proudly celebrates its 11-year reign as South Africa’s number one brand in the medium and heavy commercial vehicle (MCV and HCV) segments. Despite market challenges, ISUZU continues to dominate, underscoring its commitment to excellence and customer satisfaction.

In 2023, ISUZU Trucks maintained its strong presence in the MCV segment with 1,632 units sold and a 30.8% market share. In the HCV segment, it achieved 1,160 units sold and a 21.2% market share. The NPR 400 and FTR 850 models were standout top-sellers.

ISUZU Trucks is the top-selling cab-over-chassis brand in both the MCV and HCV segments in South Africa. The NPR 400 and FTR 850 models stood out as top-sellers, meeting diverse market demands.

“We are immensely proud of this achievement and grateful for the support of our valued customers, dealerships, and partners,” says Craig Uren, Senior Vice President: Revenue Generations (SACU) at ISUZU Motors South Africa. “These results reinforce our dedication to providing high-quality, innovative solutions. ISUZU Trucks remains committed to setting industry standards and driving the future of commercial transportation.”

From its early beginnings in the 1930s to its modern achievements, ISUZU has consistently demonstrated innovation, reliability, and a deep understanding of market needs. The brand’s journey through decades of technological advancements and market expansions showcases a legacy of excellence in the commercial automotive industry.

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