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Dealers sign up for Isuzu D-Max

On its way: Isuzu's own D-Max will be sold here via up to 50 new dealers.

Newly-formed Isuzu Ute Australia confirms D-Max launch as dealer network takes shape

27 May 2008

MITSUBISHI Corporation has registered a company called Isuzu Ute Australia to manage the import and distribution in Australia later this year of the Isuzu D-Max utility, first details of which will soon be officially revealed.

As GoAuto revealed exclusively in early March, Holden has lost the rights to continue to apply the long-running Rodeo model nameplate to the light commercial vehicle built for it by Isuzu in Thailand, following the formal separation between Isuzu and Holden’s parent company General Motors.

Holden will relaunch the Rodeo as the Colorado in July via a cosmetically facelifted model that is now on sale in Thailand as the Chevrolet Colorado. Featuring a new front bumper and interior trim, it will swap the Chev bow-tie logo on its grille for Holden’s lion mascot.

As previously reported, Mitsubishi Corporation is Japan’s largest publicly listed company and has interests in many industries globally, including Isuzu Motors Limited (IML) and Mitsubishi Motors Corporation (MMC) in Japan.

Via its new subsidiary Isuzu Ute Australia (IUA), it is now establishing an Australian dealer network of up to 50 retail outlets to sell the Isuzu D-Max, as it is known in markets outside Australia. The new company is separate to both Isuzu’s existing commercial truck operation here, Isuzu Australia Limited (IAL), and Mitsubishi Motors Australia Limited (MMAL).

GoAuto has learned that a number of Mitsubishi Corp executives, led by IUA general manager Hitoshi Kono and a senior Isuzu Thailand official, are responsible for the marketing and distribution of the Isuzu-badged D-Max to be sold here, but when contacted by GoAuto this week they remain tight-lipped about details of the vehicle, exactly when it will be launched, who will sell it and IUA’s sales aspirations.

Once Australia’s top-selling LCV, Holden’s Rodeo claimed 12.7 per cent share of Australia’s 4x2 pick-up/cab-chassis market segment in 2007 with 8978 sales (down 14.2 per cent on 2006), making it the fourth best seller behind Toyota’s HiLux, Ford’s Falcon Ute and Holden’s own Commodore-based Ute.

In 4x4 guise, the current fifth-generation (RA-series) Rodeo found 9428 Australian homes last year (up 18.1 per cent on 2006) for an 11.4 per cent share of 4x4 pick-up/cab-chassis sales, ranking it behind the HiLux, Nissan’s Navara and Mitsubishi’s Triton.

IUA spokesman Richard Power confirmed that a range of D-Max variants would be launched in late 2008, but would not confirm what engines, drivetrains or body configurations will be made available.

10 center imageLeft: Isuzu D-Max and Chevrolet Colorado (bottom).

“There will be a range, but I won’t go into any more details than that,” he said. “We don’t want to say anything more about the vehicle or its launch timing at this stage because as soon as we broadcast it there are other operators in the market that will seek to spoil it.

“I have no comment on future product. You’ll have to come to the launch to find out.” Mr Power told GoAuto an announcement on the IUA management team and dealer network was imminent.

“It won’t be too long before we go public with something, but at the moment we just want to put a few more pegs in the ground before we announce anything,” he said.

“So we’re in the process and we have signed some up but it’s an ongoing process and (Hitoshi) Kono-san is very much involved in that.

“There’s really nothing much to report. We’re just beavering away getting ready for a launch late in the year, hiring people, going through the motions to set up the systems for importing the vehicles and the accessories and so on.

“I will put out a release soon on appointments and those sorts of things – we’re just not ready yet. Don’t really want to say how many dealers we’ve signed up yet, but we’ll be aiming for a select number, probably less than 50, of existing dealers that would welcome a light commercial entry and that are complimentary to the D-Max product.” Mr Power said that some existing Isuzu commercial dealers would be appointed to retail the D-Max in Australia, and said it was possible the D-Max could be sold alongside one of its direct competitors in Mitsubishi’s Triton – despite the fact it is manufactured, imported and distributed by two of its subsidiaries.

Asked whether Mitsubishi Corp had issued a directive not to appoint Mitsubishi dealers to sell the D-Max, Mr Power said: “Not necessarily. I think we’d prefer to go with people who are not directly competitive, but that’s not always the case.

“It just depends on who’s viewed as being the best choice that’s available to us and its location. It’s possible (that the D-Max and Triton could be sold at the same dealership).

The nucleus of IUA began in Melbourne, where IAL is based, before moving to Brisbane city in January while suitable premises were found with enough land for car parking, service space and offices for backroom logistics.

IUA was officially registered as a company with the Australian Securities & Investments Commission on February 6, and its head office is still in the process of being established in the Brisbane suburb of Eagle Farm.

“We’re up and running now, doing the backroom stuff,” said Mr Power. “But there are still no land lines, there is building works in progress and it’s pretty rough and ready. We can’t even take a photo of the front of the building yet.” Mr Power stressed that IUA has “nothing to do with Mitsubishi Motors”.

“Mitsubishi Corporation is an investment house with interests in everything, including in Australia in mining and all sorts of things. One of their investments worldwide is a shareholding in Isuzu and as part of that they do worldwide marketing of D-Max for Isuzu.

“Part of Mitsubishi Corporation is Mitsubishi Motors, which obviously down the tree includes MMAL, but operationally it’s separate. The guys from MC haven’t been involved with Mitsubishi Motors - or automotive, for that matter.

“Kono-san hasn’t been in automotive with Mitsubishi, but the other senior Japanese has been very much involved with Isuzu operations in Thailand, so we have some experience there. But IUA has nothing to do with Mitsubishi Motors.” Similarly, IAL, which recently announced a senior management reshuffle, has produced an official public position statement, dated April 2008, emphasising the fact that it is a separate entity to IUA.

Issued by IAL marketing manager Jeff Birdseye, it reads: “Effective in 2008, in accordance with an Agreement entered into between Mitsubishi Corporation (Japan), and Isuzu Motors Ltd (Japan), Mitsubishi Corporation will commence distribution of the Isuzu D-Max LCV range of pick-ups and chassis-cabs, in Australia.

“Mitsubishi Corporation (Japan’s largest trading house), is not to be confused with Mitsubishi Motors (Japan), and its subsidiary Mitsubishi Motors Australia, distributor of the well-known Mitsubishi Triton in the same segment.

“The D-Max will be badged and marketed as an Isuzu and will be similar to the current model Holden Rodeo. Holden will be launching a new version of the Rodeo later this year badged Holden Colorado, which will compete directly with the older Isuzu D-Max models and other LCV segment brands such a Toyota HiLux, Mitsubishi Triton and Nissan Navara, etc.

“Mitsubishi Corporation has established a local distributor company Isuzu Ute Australia, responsible for the appointment of a national franchised Dealer network to handle the sales and servicing of the Isuzu D-Max product IAL has no involvement in the appointment of D-Max light commercial dealers or the distribution of this product.

“It is possible that existing Isuzu Truck Dealer(s) may be appointed as Isuzu D-Max Dealer(s) this is a matter between Isuzu Ute Australia and the Isuzu Truck Dealer which as an independent business is eligible to apply for this franchise IAL has no influence or equity in such appointments and has no objection to its Dealers accepting non competitor franchises (including the Isuzu D-Max franchise), providing the Isuzu Truck Dealer continues to meet its obligations according to the terms of the Dealer Sales Service Agreement existing between the Dealer and IAL.

“IAL will exercise its best endeavours to minimize any potential confusion arising from the distribution of the two “like branded” but separate products, (Isuzu Trucks and Isuzu D-Max), in the Australian automotive market.

“IAL will continue with its single minded focus on remaining the number one truck company in Australia and in 2008 achieving its 20th consecutive year of market leadership.”

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