Isuzu will have 11 mod­els on show at the 2017 Bris­bane Truck Show, and it’s a sure bet that the ma­jor­ity of the light- to medium-duty range will fea­ture au­to­mated trans­mis­sions. Greg Bush writes

Owner Driver - - Owner/Driver -

PER­HAPS IT’S a case of Aus­tralians stay­ing true to tra­di­tion, but com­pared to the United States we’ve taken a while to em­brace the trend to­wards au­to­matic trans­mis­sions, no­tably in the com­mer­cial ve­hi­cle mar­ket.

While the tran­si­tion to au­tos may be ev­i­dent in the higher end of the car mar­ket in Europe, any­one who has rented a mo­tor ve­hi­cle in the UK should be well aware that man­ual trans­mis­sions are the ini­tial of­fer­ing. If you want an au­to­matic car you’ll be pay­ing a pre­mium for it.

In re­cent years, how­ever, trans­port com­pa­nies have re­alised the safety ben­e­fits in tak­ing one pedal out of the driv­ing equa­tion. And the sav­ings in op­er­at­ing au­to­mat­ics are be­ing her­alded as far out­weigh­ing the up­front cost.

The march of the Euro­pean trucks with au­to­mated trans­mis­sions, par­tic­u­larly in the heavy-duty mar­ket, is an ex­am­ple of this mind­set.

At the lighter end of the scale Isuzu is tak­ing a more fun­da­men­tal ap­proach with their light- and medium-duty trucks.

Isuzu Aus­tralia’s chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer Phil Taylor be­lieves – es­pe­cially with its re­cently up­dated N Se­ries range – that buy­ers are seek­ing a more “car-like” ex­pe­ri­ence, or, more specif­i­cally, light trucks with auto trans­mis­sions.

Taylor re­lates it to the low per­cent­age of car own­ers who still drive man­u­als.

“Only 17 per cent of Vic­to­ri­ans who sat their li­cence test in 2014 used a man­ual ve­hi­cle,” Taylor says.

He says fac­tors push­ing con­sumers to­wards swap­ping to two ped­als in pri­vate ve­hi­cles, such as ease of use, en­hanced com­fort and eco­nomic ben­e­fits, be­come more com­pelling when ap­plied to a busi­ness truck­ing con­text.

“It’s no se­cret that the truck­ing in­dus­try has a driver short­age,” Taylor con­tin­ues. “And since the av­er­age driver age is 47, fill­ing the nec­es­sary spots in the work­force will only be­come harder as the years progress and more pro­fes­sional driv­ers re­tire.

“As such, com­pa­nies are do­ing ev­ery­thing they can to broaden the em­ploy­ment pool and at­tract younger blood.

“To achieve this, many see re­mov­ing the clutch pedal as a quick and easy op­tion.”

In ref­er­ence to around-town de­liv­er­ies, Taylor cites the less­en­ing of man­ual-spe­cific main­te­nance costs, such as wear and tear on the clutch and driv­e­line com­po­nents.

“Two pedal trucks also of­fer many sim­ple daily sav­ings that cer­tainly add up over time; ben­e­fits like the boost in pro­duc­tiv­ity through re­mov­ing the loss of mo­men­tum that oc­curs dur­ing gear chang­ing,” he con­tin­ues.

“It also means that em­ploy­ees have fewer con­cerns about less-skilled driv­ers dam­ag­ing their en­gines through over revving.

“This boost may seem in­con­se­quen­tial at first glance, but the Al­li­son trans­mis­sion, the world’s largest man­u­fac­turer of com­mer­cial­duty au­to­matic trans­mis­sions, claims the pow­ered shift of an au­to­matic trans­mis­sion gains any­where from four to seven sec­onds for every 400 me­tres trav­elled.

“Over a week of driv­ing, that’s cer­tainly a sig­nif­i­cant sav­ing.”

He refers to stud­ies out of the US which found that an AMT can pro­vide up to 5 per cent bet­ter fuel econ­omy, com­pared with a man­ual trans­mis­sion driven by an av­er­age driver.

“For many owner-driv­ers and small busi­nesses, these kinds of

“It’s no se­cret that the truck­ing in­dus­try has a driver short­age”

sav­ings are enough to off­set the slightly higher up­front costs of an AMT as com­pared with the man­ual trans­mis­sion’s sticker price.

“High re­sale val­ues also come into play, with two-pedal truck­ing of­fer­ing a much greater re­turn.

“What we’re see­ing is that a few min­utes do­ing the sums, or a few hours be­hind the wheel, is enough to con­vince many of our most diehard man­ual driv­ers that the next truck they buy will be an au­to­matic or an AMT.”


These claims co­in­cided with last year’s re­lease of Isuzu’s own au­to­mated man­ual trans­mis­sion with torque con­verter, or more sim­ply TC-AMT, in both its F Se­ries and N Se­ries range, with Aus­tralia be­ing the first mar­ket out­side Ja­pan to get a hold of the new tech­nol­ogy.

Isuzu says it re­alises that, par­tic­u­larly with its N Se­ries, the ma­jor­ity of its sales are not to pro­fes­sional driv­ers, but rather to peo­ple that need a truck to carry out their daily work.

It’s all about the tran­si­tion of mov­ing from car to truck, es­pe­cially with the un­der 4.5-tonne GVM car li­cence-friendly mod­els.

“They step out of their car or ute and step straight into an Isuzu N Se­ries,”Se­ries, Taylor says.

Taylor places em­pha­sis on Isuzu’s ready to work range, in­clud­ing the Ser­vice Pack and Trade Pack mod­els.

“Most of these cus­tomers are look­ing for a truck that makes this tran­si­tion as seam­less as pos­si­ble. They want a car li­cence truck, a light truck with con­trols that also look and feel like that of a car.”

An ex­tra in­no­va­tion and part of the TC AMT pack­age is a new shift lever fea­tur­ing a ‘P’ po­si­tion which ac­ti­vates a ‘park­ing pawl’ at the rear of the trans­mis­sion, as Isuzu Aus­tralia chief en­gi­neer Si­mon Humphries ex­plains.

“It’s not a small piece of me­chan­ics; it’s around 11kg to the to­tal trans­mis­sion and it’s strong enough to hold a fully laden ve­hi­cle on quite a rea­son­able slope,” Humphries says.

He says the TC-AMT is for all mod­els with the 4JJ1 3-litre en­gine, in­clud­ing the new NNR 65 150 6.5tonne GVM and the NNR 55/45 5.5tonne GVM which can be de-rated.

Hav­ing driven a va­ri­ety of N Se­ries TC-AMT and man­ual mod­els in the sec­ond half of 2016, the au­to­mated man­ual emerged as a clear win­ner, ow­ing to the tight­ness of the man­ual ’box which was barely run-in. Lead-foot tradies, how­ever, who en­joy mov­ing through the gears and traf­fic at a rapid pace, may not agree.

Make mine auto: Isuzu’s easy-to­op­er­ate TC-AMT

Isuzu’s N Se­ries man­ual trans­mis­sion is a lit­tle too tight for some

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