Future Models - Isuzu 2012 D-Max

Isuzu 2012 D-Max Seven-seater: The current Isuzu MU-7 SUV is based on the D-Max and is sold in the burgeoning Thai market.

Seven-seater: The current Isuzu MU-7 SUV is based on the D-Max and is sold in the burgeoning Thai market.

Isuzu eyes wagon version of D-Max ute as it counts down to 2012 launch

ISUZU Ute Australia (IUA) this week hinted that the replacement for its ageing D-Max ute could appear here as early as the first quarter of 2012 and is likely to be followed by a seven-seat 4x4 wagon.

IUA is yet to secure a date for the local ute launch, but deputy managing director Takeshi (Kasa) Kasahara is said to discuss the matter with head office daily.

The Australian launch will depend on availability out of Thailand – the D-Max’s biggest market.

The 2012 D-Max will be an all-new vehicle but retain the model’s tough body-on-chassis construction and dependable diesel-only powertrain.

While the D-Max has not been formally revealed, the related Colorado from General Motors has been displayed in thinly disguised show car trim at motor shows globally, including the Australian International Motor Show where it wore Holden badges in July.

The GM show cars have displayed more passenger car-like style than the current Colorado, but we expect the D-Max to stick to its commercial vehicle roots and trade on its tough truck heritage that stands it well in the minds of buyers.

Isuzu2012 D-Max center imageFrom top: Holden Colorado show car, Toyota Fortuner, Mitsubishi Challenger, Nissan Pathfinder, upcoming Ford Ranger.

Early photos leaked out of Asia indicate the new model will have a front end instantly recognisable as Isuzu, while the body has the wider flared wheel arches and upswept rear-side windows of the GM show cars.

The new D-Max will have more differentiation from Colorado than in the past, with unique engines as well as styling.

The 2.8-litre turbo-diesel engine that has been mooted for the General Motors ute is not an Isuzu engine and will not be used in D-Max. This has led to speculation that the D-Max could launch here with the current model’s Euro-4 3.0-litre turbo-diesel engine as its driving force.

IUA managers were coy when asked about the possibility of a petrol power plant at some time in the future, and did not deny the option.

The introduction of petrol power could fit IUA’s plans to also launch its second model here. A seven-seat, five-door wagon built on the D-Max chassis, which was previously for the Thai domestic market only, is seriously under consideration for the company and could follow soon after the D-Max.

Outgoing IUA managing director Hitoshi Kono, who is returning to Japan after establishing IUA four years ago, said the company was still waiting on the green light from head office on the SUV, but sales and dealer development general manager Paul Vuko said he was “very confident” the vehicle would be seen here.

The wagon will be built on the all-new D-Max chassis, replacing the vehicle known in Thailand as the MU7.

Mr Kono suggested that on top of the expected private sales, IUA would find buyers for its wagon in the mining sector where it has recently made inroads with its D-Max.

He said drivers further up the management chain chose a 4x4 wagon for their work and family car while workers at the coalface were using the utes.

Toyota Australia is investigating the introduction of the next generation HiLux-based Fortuna wagon here, also to appeal to the mining sector.

These ute-based wagons would join the similar Nissan Pathfinder and Mitsubishi Challenger, which both share their underpinnings with wagon siblings.

Ford Australia is also working on a wagon version of its yet-to-be-launched T6 Ranger. Generally, the wagon variants forego their load bearing rear leaf springs for smoother-riding coil spring set-ups. Pathfinder uses a bespoke coil sprung IRS in lieu of the Navara’s live axle and leafs.

We could know more about IUA’s future product if a proposed motor show for Brisbane in February 2012 gains legs. IUA is the only vehicle company in Australia to call Brisbane its hometown and Queensland is the brand’s biggest market.

A motor show in the state capital at this time would be ideal for this young company. The Brisbane Motor Show hasn’t been held since 2008 but the organisers, Expertise Events, are seeking a return in 2012.

Isuzu 2012 D-Max Seven-seater: The current Isuzu MU-7 SUV is based on the D-Max and is sold in the burgeoning Thai market.

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