Isuzu VX-4

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Keywords: automotive news resources, car news, isuzu to leave u.s. market

Description: Without future GM products to rebadge, Isuzu is left without a lineup.

It’s been a long, slow, painful death, but Isuzu now confirms it will stop selling light-duty trucks in the U.S. on January 31, 2009.

The Japanese automaker broke the news to its surely crestfallen dealers in a conference call. It followed up with a press release saying the final nail in the coffin is the fear GM may not continue the platforms that support the Isuzu Ascender SUV and i-series mid-size pickup—the only two Isuzus sold here.

GM has been hinting it will get out of the mid-size body-on-frame SUV business (the Ascender is based on the Chevrolet TrailBlazer) and focus instead on car-based utility vehicles such as the new Buick Enclave. GMC Acadia. and Saturn Outlook and the Chevy Traverse coming later this year.

As for the i-290 and i-370 pickups, Isuzu was the lead engineer on the architecture that would underpin the next-generation Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon for GM. If this also has fallen apart—that hasn’t been confirmed—then Isuzu’s full lineup will have been wiped out.

Isuzu had a joint-venture assembly plant in Indiana with Subaru until 2002. Once that ended due to financial woes, Isuzu became wholly dependent on GM for vehicles to rebadge. GM ultimately sold its eight-percent stake in Isuzu in April 2006, ending a 35-year alliance and leaving Isuzu in an even more precarious position. But the two automakers created a joint venture in June 2006, known as LCV Platform Engineering Corporation, to develop the next-generation global small-pickup platform.

The Japanese company sold only 11,300 vehicles in the U.S. in 2007, according to Ward’s Automotive Reports, of which only 7000 were passenger vehicles. That figure included fewer than 3000 Ascenders and just over 4000 pickups.

“It has always been our intention to remain in the U.S. market,” Isuzu America CEO Terry Maloney said in a statement. “However, we were unable to secure any commercially viable replacements for these vehicles. Although Isuzu will cease supplying passenger vehicles in North America, it will continue to stand behind its customers and dealers here for years to come.”

The automaker says it will honor warranties and roadside-assistance programs and maintain a customer call center. Many of the roughly 200 dealers in the U.S. are expected to continue to operate as Isuzu service centers. Dealers will be offered buyouts, and customer incentives will be made available to clear out old inventory.

Isuzu will stay in the medium-duty truck business in the U.S. with plans to expand its commercial-vehicle business. But plans to build a mid-size-truck assembly plant in Birmingham, Alabama, have been put on hold due to concerns about the U.S. economy.



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