Industry Insights

Isuzu History: The Early Years

The genesis of today’s Isuzu Motors Limited (Japan) can be traced back to the 1916 union between a Tokyo ship-building company and an energy producer motivated by one clear vision—to build quality vehicles.

And it was from a storied evolution of the brand that its iconic Australian subsidiary, IAL, was born.

Introduced to Australia by General Motors Holden (GMH) in 1972, Isuzu trucks were initially marketed as ‘Bedford by Isuzu’, which helped appeal to an audience unfamiliar with the brand by promoting buyer confidence via association with Bedford, a UK brand that was well established in Australia.

1972 to 1989

In the early days, availability was limited to a handful of models, such as the KA 40/41, KS, KT, TLD and TLG in the light-duty range, and the JBR, JCR, JCS, SBR and SCR in the medium-duty range. In addition to these, larger trucks and bus chassis were also sold, albeit in small numbers.

The Isuzu range expanded in 1976, a change that coincided with a more modern cab-over body style revamp for the medium-duty range, and a cabin facelift for the light-duty range.

In that same year, local assembly of trucks commenced at Holden’s plant in Dandenong with the JCR model, with other models subsequently introduced to the assembly line.

By 1979, Isuzu’s proven performance and exceptional reliability saw the brand gain widespread market acceptance and ‘Bedford’ was dropped from the name—leaving the Isuzu brand to stand on its own in front of a keen Australian market.

‘Reliability is Everything’—with the enduring 1982 tagline synonymous with the brand, Isuzu continued its tireless effort to provide reliable, quality trucks for the Australian market.

In 1984, the N Series was introduced, replacing the KA, KS, KT, TLD and TLG models. Two years later, the restyled, medium-duty ‘F Series’ range was launched, replacing the JBR, JCR, JCS, SBR and SCR models.

1989 to 2017: brief overview

Today, driven by that proud tagline and supported by a broad range of vehicles, this 30-year milestone has been reached because of the unwavering IAL commitment to efficient and cost-effective products and services.

Isuzu General Motors Limited (I-GM) was formed in 1989, and the year also marked the beginning of the brand’s truck market leadership in Australia.

Many exciting developments followed, with the early 1990s seeing I-GM purchase the Dandenong assembly plant, as well as an all-new 1994 N Series hitting the Australian market with the distinctive new ‘Aero-cube’ cabin design.

Growing from there, the mid 90s saw the development and launch of the all-new 1996 F Series, also fitted with the Aero-cube design.

Nearing the turn of the millennium, at the end of 1999, I-GM celebrated ten consecutive years of Australian truck market leadership.

Off the back of that milestone, the 2000 release of the GIGA 425 EXY heralded I-GM’s into the heavy-duty sector. The release of the GIGA 385 CXZ and CXY models in 2001, further strengthened the brand’s position in the heavy-duty market.

With a steadily growing operation, I-GM secured its 15th consecutive year of truck market leadership in 2003.

But the growth did not stop there. A momentous 2005 celebrated the birth of Isuzu Australia Limited (IAL), a wholly Australian-owned subsidiary of Isuzu Motors Limited (Japan), after General Motors’ 40 per cent stake was bought over.

With the world and the environment rapidly changing, 2006 saw IAL commit to greater environmental awareness, with the all-new Euro IV-compliant N Series and F Series launched to coincide with the then ADR 80/02 emissions regulations.

IAL celebrated 2008 with an industry record 20 consecutive years of Australian truck market leadership and the all-new Euro V-equivalent FX models and upgraded GIGA models were released.

That same year oversaw an important step towards increasing IAL’s presence in diesel engines beyond commercial vehicles and heavy-duty trucks, with the establishment off the brand’s Industrial Engines department.

Isuzu’s industrial engine line-up began with a two cylinder, 14 hp engine and extended to a six cylinder, 244 hp off highway engine, typically finding a home in agricultural pumping and irrigation applications.

Furthering its commitment to the environment, IAL released low-emissions CNG-powered trucks in the N Series and F Series in 2010, offering a positive alternative to diesel.

The launch of the new FY Series with its three models (nine variants) captured the attention of the truck market in 2012, introducing an 8×4 and a 10×4 specification to the Isuzu product line-up, a specification that had been noticeably missing.

The now lauded FY range offered Isuzu’s proven reliability, a comfortable driving environment, very competitive tare weights and ample power and torque for the category.

Reaching an enviable 25 consecutive years of truck market leadership at the end of 2013, IAL continued to expand from there, buying a new parts facility in Brisbane to service the South Pacific region as well as launching Isuzu Telematics technology.

Charging ahead in 2015, IAL saw the expansion of the Isuzu Engines department, and launched a new N Series range with improved safety in the form of Isuzu Electronic Stability Control (IESC).

In 2016 Isuzu Motors Limited (Japan) marked 100 years in business; meanwhile IAL forged further ahead with the debut of the small displacement, high-torque new 4HK1 diesel engine and was also congratulated on its ready-to-work NLR 45-150 Servicepack, which won Delivery Magazine’s Best Light Truck award that year.

Not one to rest on accolades, IAL developed the new, high-tech generation of the Isuzu bullbar in 2017 after years of extensive research, development and rigorous testing.

Also, in this year, IAL expanded its popular range of Ready-to-Word Tippers and commenced the construction of the new head office in Truganina, Victoria.

A limitless 2018

In 2018, IAL not only moved from its Lorimer Street address to its new head office in Truganina, in Western Melbourne, the company also launched another impressive N Series range with features like independent front suspension, emission control options and in a first for the Australian market, the availability of a two-pedal transmission in a light 4×4 truck.

But it does not stop there. IAL also celebrated 30 years as Australian market leaders at the close of 2018, setting the brand well apart from its peers.

If the present is a sign of what is to come, the future beyond 2018 is definitely one to look out for.