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AIMS: Isuzu confirms SUV for Oz in 2013

What’s in a name: Isuzu Ute Australia is set to become a misnomer as it moves into the passenger car segment with an SUV expected to be named MU-7.

Seven-seat, D-Max based Isuzu SUV heading to Australia next year – with new styling

18 Oct 2012

ISUZU Ute Australia has confirmed at today’s Sydney motor show that it will introduce a seven-seat SUV based on the new D-Max one-tonne ute next year.

The new vehicle will go head-to-head against the related Holden Colorado 7 that made its Australian public debut today, along with other rugged ute-based off-road oriented family wagons like the Mitsubishi Challenger and Nissan Pathfinder.

However GoAuto has learned that unlike the Colorado 7, which shares a nose with its commercial vehicle cousin, the as yet un-revealed Isuzu wagon will receive a unique styling treatment to set it apart from the workhorse.

The previous-generation Isuzu wagon, sold mainly in developing markets as the MU-7, never made it to Australia, but between 1981 and 1994 Isuzu-built wagons were sold here as the Holden Jackaroo.

GoAuto understands the new SUV retains the MU-7 nameplate and will be officially unveiled at a motor show in Thailand next month, just weeks before Holden’s Colorado 7 hits Australian showrooms.

But the fact that Isuzu’s Thai factory is working flat out to satisfy domestic D-Max demand and has a 100,000 unit back-order for the domestic ute market makes it difficult for the local operation to pin down when the new SUV will arrive Down Under.

Isuzu Ute Australia senior PR manager Dave Harding told GoAuto the company would like to get the SUV on the market as soon as possible and confirmed it would arrive next year but was unable to provide a more specific time frame due to potential supply issues.

He said half a million examples of the new D-Max have been sold in Thailand alone since production began last September, but a new factory that recently came on-line is helping drive throughput – as is General Motors’ move to its own dedicated factory for Colorado production.

Isuzu sees an opportunity to sell the SUV to loyal D-Max owners wanting to trade up to a family car, plus ‘grey nomads’ seeking a more fuel-efficient towing vehicle to replace older, thirstier petrol off-roaders such as the Toyota LandCruiser that would be expensive to replace with the brand-new equivalent.

“I think quite a lot of people will have a current or older model D-Max they have been happy with but want something they can use as a family vehicle as well, or for the extra versatility,” he said.

“We have plenty of families buying a dual-cab vehicle but (with the SUV) you don’t have to put a canopy on the back, and of course a canopy isn’t (as convenient) as a seven-seater SUV.

“We know we do (have loyal customers). We know from our customer satisfaction surveys and the return customers buying our cars.”

Asked whether the location and style of Isuzu’s dealerships was conducive to selling passenger cars, Mr Harding said the SUV could bring growth to metropolitan and outer-suburban dealers – especially in Melbourne – where ute sales had not “traditionally been that strong”, while the grey nomad market was a potential source of SUV sales and service in regional Australia.

He added that the public’s association of Isuzu dealers with commercial vehicles was unlikely to be a problem as most dealers are multi-franchise with passenger car outlets on the same site.

As well, Isuzu’s dealer network is being expanded from around 80 sites to a target of 100 in just six months.

The SUV will share a 130kW/380Nm 3.0-litre turbo-diesel engine with the D-Max but it is not yet known whether Isuzu will follow Holden’s strategy of offering it exclusively with a six-speed automatic transmission in Australia.

Isuzu engineers are working rapidly In response to the recent disappointing four-star ANCAP crash test score for the D-Max and Mr Harding was confident the SUV will have “seven seats and five stars”.

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