Rea­son to cel­e­brate a long, suc­cess­ful run

Business Day - Motor News - - COMMERCIAL NEWS - Mo­tor News Re­porter

What do for­mer Spring­bok rugby cap­tain John Smit, the first test tube baby, the Walk­man and the movie Grease have in com­mon? They were all in­tro­duced to the world in the same year that the first Isuzu bakkie went into lo­cal pro­duc­tion in SA.

The year 1978 was sig­nif­i­cant for the brand on SA’s roads. Whether it’s haul­ing sheep in the Ka­roo or zip­ping be­tween the Gaut­eng of­fice tow­ers, the Isuzu bakkie has been syn­ony­mous with the South African way of life for four decades.

The first Isuzu bakkie car­ry­ing the Isuzu badge was built at the Kemp­ston Road plant in Port El­iz­a­beth 40 years ago. To­day, with three body styles, the bakkies con­tinue to be con­tenders in the mar­ket, ap­pro­pri­ately us­ing the com­pany tag line “With you, for the long run”.

The first bakkie was launched at an orig­i­nal sell­ing price of R3,485 for a 1.6l petrol en­gine ver­sion and R4,295 for a 2.0l diesel en­gine de­riv­a­tive.

Johan Ver­meulen, Isuzu Mo­tors SA ex­ec­u­tive for man­u­fac­tur­ing and sup­ply chain, says the bakkie has evolved to re­main one of SA’s favourites.

“Over the years Isuzu ve­hi­cle assem­bly ex­pe­ri­enced many changes. We started pro­duc­tion at the Kemp­ston Road plant where we pro­duced five gen­er­a­tions and moved to the mod­ern Struan­dale plant when we started to build the sixth gen­er­a­tion.

“With the in­tro­duc­tion of mod­ern tech­nol­ogy, au­to­ma­tion and lean man­u­fac­tur­ing pro­cesses into au­to­mo­tive man­u­fac­tur­ing, we were able to con­tin­u­ously im­prove ef­fi­cien­cies and the qual­ity of our prod­ucts.

“To­day, six gen­er­a­tions later, our mod­ern man­u­fac­tur­ing pro­cesses and con­stant up­skilling of labour have made Isuzu bakkies one of SA’s favourites,” Ver­meulen says.

A pi­o­neer in many ways, the Isuzu bakkie was the first in the coun­try to fea­ture rack and pin­ion steer­ing and in­de­pen­dent front sus­pen­sion. In the 1990s Isuzu was also the first to in­tro­duce dou­ble cabs into the South African mar­ket.

Other than its in­no­va­tive na­ture, the Isuzu bakkie has many ac­co­lades in its prover­bial tro­phy cabi­net, in­clud­ing 15 lo­cal en­durance records.

In 2010 an Isuzu bakkie set 15 speed and dis­tance records over 72 hours at the Gerotek ve­hi­cle test­ing fa­cil­ity — with a KB300 D-Teq com­plet­ing 12,243.385km at an av­er­age speed of 170.047km/h. A KB250 D-Teq achieved a new class record dis­tance of 11,495.567km.

The sixth-gen­er­a­tion Isuzu bakkie, which was launched in 2013, is a continuation of the long Isuzu tra­di­tion of build­ing bakkies in the coun­try, with more than 600,000 Isuzu bakkies built lo­cally to date.

Top: Var­i­ous gen­er­a­tions of Isuzu bakkies. Above: The lat­est Isuzu KB is still built in Port El­iz­a­beth un­der the Isuzu Trucks brand.

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