ROAD TO RECOVERY
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