Nov 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By David A Kolman
A Global Leader in commercial vehicles and diesel engines, Isuzu Motors is devoting more time and attention to the US marketplace. The core strategy is to grow its presence by offering products that provide improved fuel economy and environmental protection.
The Tokyo-based manufacturer is looking to boost the volume of products, especially its N Series trucks, and is broadening the current US product lineup, expanding truck models to other applications, said company president Susumu “Jack” Hosoi. Among other things, it is lengthening wheelbases and offering additional body and equipment packages up to 24 feet in length.
Consideration is being given to bringing more light duty truck models to the US and to developing a Sprinter-like vehicle for the US market, possibly through collaboration with another vehicle manufacturer.
At present, Isuzu Motors has no plans to offer its hybrid and CNG light duty vehicles in the North American market, Hosoi said. Nor does it intend to make available heavy duty truck models any time soon. However, it is investigating the viability of joining forces with a North American heavy-duty vehicle manufacturer.
Isuzu Motors is enhancing its global strategy through technical cooperation and new partnerships among commercial vehicle manufacturers. By consolidating parts and components, and sharing research and development, Hosoi said the high cost burden for new products and services on each manufacturer can be lowered.
“It is very difficult for one company to absorb all the costs of this, as well as the expenses involved in meeting increasingly stringent emission standards worldwide. Economic conditions being what they are, these increased costs can't easily be passed onto customers.”
On the matter of business alliances, Hosoi stated: “GM and Isuzu have had a profound and long-lasting (35-year) relationship involving commercial trucks. The speculation that GM is planning to sell its medium duty truck business to Isuzu is wrong. No proposals from GM have been made.”
The base for all product development initiatives is Isuzu Motors' SEE engineering philosophy. SEE stands for Safety, Economy, and Environmental performance.
To guarantee supplies of consistent, uniform quality products, Isuzu Motors has been standardizing quality control processes at all manufacturing plants with the Isuzu Manufacturing Management (IMM) program, said Haruki Mizutani, head of the Isuzu Motors' “mother plant” in Kanagawa-ken, Japan.
IMM is a best-practices type program that assures customer satisfaction through strict quality control by centering on four keys areas: systematic quality inspections along the manufacturing and assembly process, quality assurance of all outsourced parts, tightening torque management, and daily quality audit meetings for quality improvement.
“The system has appreciably reduced manufacturing errors and resulted in considerable labor savings,” Mizutani said.
“Because of these quality processes, our trucks are considered bulletproofed by many of our customers,” added Isuzu Commercial Truck of America (ICTA) vice president-fleet operations and marketing Todd Bloom. “If any problems or defects are discovered, they are fixed at that point. Only then does the vehicle move on through assembly.”
Isuzu Motors uses I-CAS (Isuzu Clean Air Solutions) to reduce the overall environmental impact of its engines and meet diesel emission standards around the world, said general manager-solutions sales department Hiroshi Omino. I-CAS does this by combining optimal combustion, aftertreatment, and electronic control technologies.
“Diesel will continue to be a major power source for commercial vehicles,” he predicted.
D-Core is Isuzu Motors' next generation diesel engine series, said Teruyuki Takashima, chief engineer-powertrain product planning. It incorporates exhaust gas recirculation, common rail high-pressure fuel injection, diesel particulate filters, and smaller displacement, supercharged diesel engines to meet emissions regulations while providing improved fuel economy with higher power.
Along with providing more fuel-efficient, environmentally friendlier vehicles, Isuzu Motors has been supporting customers in Japan with a seminar program on fuel efficient and safe driving to help them raise the efficiency of their operations.
Since 1995, more than 12,000 customers have attended these “Eco-Driving” seminars, held at Isuzu Motors' Wacom proving grounds in Hokkaido, said president of the facility Isao Yamazaki. The largest proving ground in Japan, it is the size of 92 baseball stadiums (1,095 acres).
A similar program, the Fuel Economy Challenge, was begun in the US last year, said ICTA's Bloom. Thus far, some 150 people have gone through the training, held at various locations throughout the US.
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