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NEWS UPDATES 19 April 2010

Isuzu expects D-Max to boost its sales

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While Isuzu’s Malaysian unit is aiming to increase sales by 10 percent this year on the back of a record volume of 5,086 units achieved in 2009, the car maker’s local offering is limited to only one model, the diesel-powered D-Max pick-up truck first imported from its “homeland” in Thailand five years ago, a report in Malaisian daily the StarBiz said.

“The D-Max is a proven seller and I think the target is achievable,’’ said Takashi Hata, chief executive officer and anaging director of Isuzu Malaysia Sdn Bhd, during a media visit to Isuzu’s operations in Thailand recently.

A limited edition model of the D-Max designed to attract the younger crowd was introduced early this year.

However, Isuzu Malaysia would not be able to bring in a sport-utility vehicle (SUV) version of the D-Max, called the MU-7, because the seven-seater 3-litre diesel engine requires a higher grade fuel than what is currently available in the local market.

Last year, some 6,000 units of the MU-7 were sold in Thailand.

According to Ken Takashima, Isuzu Operations (Thailand) Co Ltd (IOT) president, new technology has revolutionised diesel engine to a become real and more efficient alternative to petrol engine.

“I think, based on the current technology, it would take a few more years before hybrid becomes a genuine alternative for drivers,’’ he said.

But to reap the benefit of efficiency from modern diesel engines, its need to run on clean diesel fuel. Currently, diesel sold at local pumps is of Euro2 standard. Isuzu’s MU-7, which is being sold in Thailand and the Phillipines, must feed on cleaner fuel that meets Euro3 compliance in terms of sulphur content.

While Malaysia’s automotive industry lagged behind Thailand in the terms of diesel engine capability, the gap is also opening up in the compact passenger car segment.

Recently, Thailand launched a fresh initiative to attract carmakers to make the country the global hub for cheap, fuel-efficient cars under its “eco-car” initiative.

It must be noted that Thailand is already the manufacturing base for light pick-up truck makers like Isuzu, Toyota, Ford, Nissan, Mitsubishi and General Motors.

Nissan became the first to take advantage of the eco-car drive, having started production of the new March 1.2-litre three-cylinder model from a plant in Thailand last month.

The compact car was a major attraction at the recently concluded Bangkok International Motor Show (BIMS). Others like Mitsubishi and Toyota are considering setting up eco-car manufacturing hub in Thailand to take advantage of the special privilleges being dolled out by the government.

To qualify for Thailand’s eco-car programme, the car needs to achieve pre-set fuel efficiency and price target, as well as meet certain production mileage in terms of domestic and export sales.

In the meantime, demand for diesel-powered pick-up trucks remains strong. According to reports, Isuzu sold 3,500 units of D-Max and MU-7 during the 12-day period at recent BIMS that ended early this month. Toyota sold 6,493 units units of various models, followed by Nissan at 3,675 units.

Pick-up trucks accounted for nearly 60 percent of cars produced in Thailand, which stood at close to 550,000 units last year. Isuzu and Toyota dominated the market, each with about 40 percent share respectively.


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