Isuzu upgrades, expands truck product line

Near the end of a year containing strong financial performance, Isuzu announced upgrades to its low-cab forward trucks and introduced a new line of conventional trucks to its US dealer network and the trade press. The announcement came at the company's dealer meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, on November 17, 2004.

In the US, Isuzu trucks are marketed by General Motors Isuzu Commercial Truck, a joint venture with 51% held by Isuzu Commercial Truck of America and 49% held by General Motors. GMICT is responsible for sales and marketing of all commercial trucks from Isuzu and those from GM sold under the Chevrolet and GMC nameplates. Since Isuzu first began selling trucks in the US in 1984, it has delivered 330,000 vehicles with more than 80% of them still in use. As a part of the program for dealers, GMICT searched for and found the very first Isuzu truck, a Model KS 22, restored it to factory condition, and put it on display with the company's new models.

Financial highlights show that Isuzu had worldwide revenue of $13 billion in its 2004 fiscal year, an improvement of more than $70 million from the previous year and an operating profit of $768 million, up more than $600 million from the 2003 fiscal year. Net income was announced as $497 million for fiscal 2004, a rebound from a $1.3 billion loss in fiscal 2003.

Strong market share

With its three nameplates, GMICT leads the market for low-cab forward trucks in the US. Combining its Isuzu, Chevrolet, and GMC nameplates, the company says it holds a 70% market share for LCF commercial trucks and projects total sales of 24,000 trucks in 2004 with that figure rising to 28,000 trucks in 2005.

The current N-series of low-cab forward trucks already deliver the performance and capacity medium duty fleets require, says Jim Underwood, president of GMICT. Upgrades to the N-series for the 2006 model year include a more modern appearance as well as some refinements to help the engine retain heat in cold weather operation. The new N-series now has a composite bumper, flush-mounted headlamps, cornering lamps, and turn signals. Trucks also get new door badges that specify the make, model, engine displacement, and type of fuel.

For more efficient operation, N-series trucks now come with a tachometer and a steel engine cover on the back of the cab to help retain heat in the engine compartment in cold weather. Diesel trucks have a Donaldson air cleaner in a polypropylene housing around a large paper element with more surface area that the previous air filter.

Two engine options

The N-series is available with two engine options. The diesel engine is Isuzu's 5.2-liter, four-cylinder 4HK1-TC rated at 190 horsepower. Transmission options include Eaton's six-speed, synchromesh manual gearbox or a four-speed automatic transmission from Aisin. The engine is available for trucks with weight ratings ranging from 12,000 lb to 19,500 lb. Isuzu says that average life to overhaul is 310,000 miles.

Two N-series trucks, the NPR and the MPR HD, can be ordered with General Motors' new Vortec 6000 gasoline engine. The 6-liter engine, a continuing development of GM's long line of small-block V-8s, is rated for 300 hp at 4,400 rpm. The gasoline engine mates only to a four-speed automatic transmission from GM.

Isuzu spokesmen were quick to point out that the company plans no price increases for the N-series for the 2006 model year beginning in 2005. In addition, diesel versions of the N-series will be covered by a three-year, unlimited mileage warranty.

Gasoline versions of the N-series are assembled at the General Motors plant in Janesville, Wisconsin. Diesel versions are imported from the Isuzu plant in Fujisawa, Japan.

New H-series conventionals

In a move aimed to provide Isuzu dealers with the competitive tool of a conventional cab truck, GMICT has added an Isuzu version of the General Motors C-series conventional medium-duty vehicle to the Isuzu product line. Three new trucks will be available to Isuzu — the HTR Class 6 conventional, the HVR for Class 7, and the HXR for Class 8 applications. All three models will be available with a 105-in BBC regular cab or a 146-in BBC crew cab.

H-series trucks will be built on the General Motors medium-duty truck assembly line in Flint, Michigan. The new series of conventional was added to provide a large product offering for Isuzu dealers that do not already have access to a line of conventional trucks. Underwood says that production of the Isuzu versions of the conventionals will probably range from 3,000 to 5,000 trucks per year. Dealers will be required to apply for a separate conventional truck franchise.

Underwood candidly states that H-series trucks are exactly the same as medium-duty General Motors' conventionals with the exception of available options. For instance, Isuzu versions will not offer the Caterpillar engines available from Chevrolet and GMC.

Isuzu engine standard

The standard engine in the Isuzu H-series is the 7.8-liter, six-cylinder 6HK1-TC diesel. Horsepower ratings start at 200 and top out at 300 with intermediate ratings of 215, 230, 250, and 275 hp. Torque ratings start at 520 lb-ft and rise to 660, 800, or 860 lb-ft. Isuzu says that average life to overhaul for the six-cylinder diesel is 410,000 miles.

Engines mate to Eaton six-speed manual transmissions or 2500-series Allison automatics in the Class 6 and Class 7 versions of the H-series. In the heavier HXR, Eaton nine- or 10-speed manual transmissions and Allison 3000 RDS automatic transmissions are available.

Standard brakes on the Class 6 HTR and Class 7 HVR are four-channel ABS hydraulic discs. Air brakes with four-channel ABS are standard for the Class 8 HXR. The air brake system is optional on the HVR.

Production work on the H-series will begin in the second quarter 2005 and trucks will be available as 2006 model-year vehicles in July 2005.

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