Isuzu's 8x4 F series is a huge hit.
Isuzu's 8x4 F series is a huge hit. David Meredith

Isuzu is well positioned to meet future challenges

WE'RE already nearly two months into 2019, but at Isuzu's brand new HQ in Truganina, west of Melbourne, they'll be re-living the end of last year with relish for some time to come.

It marked an unprecedented 30 years of consecutive market leadership in trucks in Australia. It's the top performing market for Isuzu globally. It's unprecedented, either in cars or trucks.

Current performance gives Isuzu Australia Limited a strong voice in Tokyo, but there are certain parameters the factory cannot entertain just for Oz. Isuzu's engine-building business is the biggest in Japan, and indeed stationary engines are part of the growth picture for the brand here, as well as trucks.

But truck-wise, the company says the key to the future is developments in communications software. MD Hiroko Yaguchi called it a "once in a century change”. For a company that measures its long-term planning in decades rather than five-year blocks, we are likely to see Isuzu leading the way in truck connectivity.

Through Phil Taylor's leadership, Isuzu is well positioned to meet these challenges head-on. The medium-duty sector is Isuzu's most successful stamping ground, with more than 40 per cent of the market. The F-Series is a good looking truck as well as a renowned workhorse, and the N-Series just keeps on expanding its coverage of applications.

Operators who present to customers with a new Isuzu appear to gain credibility with their customers. If they have specified the truck correctly, the running costs are under control, resale value is second to none, and reliability is a given. Customer impressions are a bonus. A global auto market survey was conducted last year by KPMG, and it identified digitalisation and connectivity as the prime movers in markets. Isuzu is aware that if OEMs don't adapt to this trend, they will endure significant profit downturns.

With that in mind, Australian Isuzus are becoming far more electronic platforms than just load carriers. The company is also locally testing a truck with an electric driveline, with an expectation it will be available for inner-city and metropolitan back-to-base work sooner rather than later.

Naturally, the plans now focus on staying on top of the mountain. Simply put, Isuzu intends to build and deliver more product, into a wider range of markets, with product development that is keenly tuned to the specific needs of customers.

Isuzu gathers extensive and significant data from its dealer network, and this will enable product planners to blend long market knowledge with trend data. The blurring of mobility and logistics, technology interplays, and a barrage of technical and regulatory change will stir the pot for all manufacturers.

In a comment on the economy, which Mr Taylor would likely not have made prior to his retirement announcement, he said business conditions were cause for optimism; "despite political skullduggery, gamesmanship and generally outrageous behaviour, the Australian economy remains in good shape.”

Ultimately, Isuzu has hammered some pegs in the ground that won't be shifted in the foreseeable future. Indeed, Ms Yaguchi issued an ominous warning to the other market players that may have them dialling down their objectives to being the best of the rest for some time.

"Our company is shifting to a life-cycle focus for all our commercial vehicle products. In fact the company has the objective of growing its global business by 30 per cent in the next three years.”