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With the rising sun

March 16, 2018

For 40 years, Isuzu has been producing light commercial vehicles (LCVs) in South Africa. With the announcement by General Motors (GM) that it would completely withdraw from the local market by the end of 2017, this proud heritage – and that of the separate Isuzu Trucks division – came under threat…

The brand is, however, now set to enter a new dawn. Isuzu Motors, the Japanese parent company, has taken over 100-percent ownership of the local operations and formed Isuzu Motors South Africa (IMSAf).

Both LCV bakkies and the heavier trucks will now fall under the new entity, creating an all-encompassing commercial vehicle powerhouse.

“This is the first commercial and light commercial vehicle manufacturing operation outside of Japan in which we have acquired 100-percent ownership,” said president and representative director of Isuzu Motors of Japan, Masanori Katayama.

“This decision demonstrates the confidence we have in this market and is indicative of our longer-term view that South Africa will serve as an important base for our future growth on the African continent,” he added, noting that Isuzu is represented in 30 countries outside of Japan and successfully operates 47 manufacturing plants in these countries with joint-venture partners.

In South Africa, the Port Elizabeth-based Struandale plant (where the LCVs are manufactured) will remain the main base of operations. In the short term, the brand will incorporate the truck manufacturing operation (currently based at Kempston Road in Port Elizabeth) under one roof of the Struandale facility.

“Our short-term focus is on implementing our transitional plans, ensuring the sustainability of our operations, further strengthening our product portfolio and relocating the truck operations from Kempston Road to the Struandale plant. As we do this, we will need to demonstrate excellence in everything we do and the ability to lead in key segments of the market,” said IMSAf CEO and MD, Michael Sacke.

Speaking at the IMSAf launch, Minister of Trade and Industry, Rob Davies, said that this significant event came at a favourable time in South Africa.

“General Motors left when investment sentiment in South Africa was low, but Isuzu Motors recognised there was a long-term positive outlook for the country. The automotive industry in South Africa is very important; it contributes 7,4 percent to the country’s gross domestic product. Through this acquisition and the formation of IMSAf, 1 000 jobs will be saved in the Port Elizabeth area, as will 3 000 in the direct supply chain,” he stated.

The move has also been commended by the Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber.

According to Sacke, many partners worked behind the scenes to get to this point. “Isuzu Motors has shown confidence in our local management, while our dealer partners are confident in the future of the brand, and suppliers have been equally supportive.”

The company is certainly off to a good start. Despite the departure of GM and the new formation of IMSAf, sales volumes of the Isuzu KB grew by 14,8 percent, while the truck division retained a leading market position during 2017.

As the company officially enters its new era, it plans to combine the best of the Isuzu product portfolio with local engineering and manufacturing capabilities. Several new products are on the cards to ensure its good performance continues. These include the KB X-Rider Black, the KB chassis cab, and the soon-to-be-launched FYH 8×4.

Katayama concluded: “Your efforts have been exceptional and we are confident that this will become a flagship operation for Isuzu Motors.”

FOCUS can only wish the IMSAf team all the best for the future of the new operation.

My life has always revolved around anything with wheels and an engine. It doesn’t matter if its an old banger, the latest hot-hatch or a fancy 4×4 – any excuse is a good excuse to take it for a cruise, spank it at the track or go bundu-bashing (the mud-and-rocks-side-of-a-mountain type, not the exploring-Joburg’s-pavements type). Otherwise, chances are you’ll find me lying underneath one of my beloved toys or with my head buried in its engine bay, tinkering away.

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