Owner Driver - - Truck Test - – Greg Bush

Isuzu’s 2018 N Se­ries prod­uct launch comes at an in­ter­est­ing junc­ture in the his­tory for both Isuzu and the com­mer­cial ve­hi­cle in­dus­try in gen­eral, ac­cord­ing to Isuzu Aus­tralia CEO Phil Tay­lor.

Isuzu is cur­rently in its 29th year of truck mar­ket lead­er­ship in Aus­tralia and Tay­lor re­mains con­fi­dent that the mile­stone mark of 30 con­sec­u­tive years at the top is within sight.

“It hasn’t al­ways been beer and skit­tles,” Tay­lor re­marked at the N Se­ries launch.

“I’ve been in this in­dus­try for more years than I care to re­mem­ber, and in that time I’ve just about seen it all.”

Tay­lor says the en­tire truck in­dus­try suf­fered fol­low­ing the global fi­nan­cial cri­sis in 2008 when sales plum­meted to 28,654 in 2009. That was down a big 25 per­cent on the mar­ket peak of 2007 when 38,131 com­mer­cial ve­hi­cles of all makes and mod­els were sold across all sec­tors.

“Worse sales were to come with the mar­ket blowing out com­pletely two years later in 2011, at 27,858 ve­hi­cles be­ing sold and de­liv­ered.”

With big in­dus­try changes fore­cast dur­ing the next five to 10 years, Tay­lor says it’s timely to recog­nise that it has taken 11 long years to claw back and re­pair this dis­rup­tion. Al­though, he adds sales fig­ures are still short of the 2007 peak.

“With some of those dark times be­hind us, I’m pleased to say that our own in-house pro­jec­tions are point­ing to­wards an all-time record in 2018, with the mar­ket on track to break the 40,000 heavy ve­hi­cle sales’ bar­rier for the first time ever.

“The to­tal truck mar­ket is up 15.7 per cent year to date,” Tay­lor says.

“I think all man­u­fac­tur­ers will be push­ing hard to fin­ish the year in that 40,000-plus seg­ment.”

Tay­lor says the freight task in Aus­tralia is grow­ing at a rapid pace, as is its com­plex­ity. He points to changes in truck tech­nol­ogy, and Isuzu’s own lo­cal work in the elec­tric ve­hi­cle space.

“The rapid rate of de­vel­op­ment in bat­tery tech­nol­ogy alone an ex­cel­lent ex­am­ple of this,” he con­tin­ues.

“When you con­sider other in­dus­try-shap­ing tech, such as pla­toon­ing and au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cles, it’s clear to see that land­mark change is well un­der way.

“And we do love to look to the fu­ture, es­pe­cially in this in­dus­try. There’s a con­stant com­men­tary, spec­u­la­tion and the­ory around the theme of change.

“But as the say­ing goes, ‘the more things change, the more they stay the same’. And by this I mean right now, in 2018, light duty ve­hi­cles are not just the re­al­ity for last mile de­liv­ery, they are the re­al­ity. And that’s not likely to change any­time soon.”

Tay­lor states that Aus­tralian busi­nesses need light trucks. “It’s our job to pro­vide a safe, pre­dictable and con­stantly evolv­ing prod­uct to sat­isfy that de­mand,” he says.

Re­flect­ing on the evo­lu­tion of Isuzu’s N Se­ries of­fer­ing, Tay­lor says it’s fas­ci­nat­ing to note how far the man­u­fac­turer has come since 1989. Back then, Isuzu had one turbo model avail­able – the NPR400 turbo.

“It had a mind-bend­ing 79kW of power and 306Nm of torque with a seven-tonne GVM. This was the ab­so­lute pin­na­cle of the range back then,” Tay­lor re­calls.

“The equiv­a­lent model to­day is the pop­u­lar NQR at 8.7-tonne GVM and 140kW of power, al­most dou­ble.”

Tay­lor says back in 1989, Isuzu’s high­est sell­ing model was the NKR200 flat low. “This was a non-turbo ver­sion sport­ing 74kW, 242Nm of torque and 4.2-tonne GVM … a great lit­tle truck.

“The equiv­a­lent to­day is the 4.5-tonne GVM NLR 45-150 at 110kW, 375Nm of torque and util­is­ing a six-speed au­to­mated man­ual trans­mis­sion.”

How­ever, those ex­pect­ing to load their old CD col­lec­tion into the new N Se­ries range will be dis­ap­pointed. While Isuzu’s new au­dio-vis­ual sys­tem boasts fea­tures such as USB 3.0 con­nec­tiv­ity, Blue­tooth V4, AM/FM/ DAB+ and in­ter­net ra­dio ca­pa­bil­ity when us­ing a teth­ered smart­phone WiFi, the CD slot to in­sert your favourite Led Zep­pelin disc has gone by the way­side.

An­other sign of the times.

ABOVE: Isuzu Aus­tralia CEO Phil Tay­lor be­lieves truck sales will re­turn to al­most pre-GFC lev­els. Photo by Greg Bush

BE­LOW: Isuzu’s im­pres­sive new au­dio-vis­ual sys­tem

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