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SUV likely to be Isuzu’s second model

Thai’d down: The current MU-7 is sold almost exclusively in Thailand, and Australia decided to wait for the new-generation version for its vital second local model.

Isuzu Australia gets “verbal commitment” for highly anticipated seven-seat SUV

25 Jun 2012

ISUZU head office has given its Australian subsidiary a verbal commitment it will produce an Australian-specification version of the next-generation MU-7 – a seven-seater SUV based on the D-Max one-tonne utility that will hit local showrooms next week.

The new Thai-built Pathfinder-style SUV would provide Isuzu Ute Australia with a much-desired second model to sell alongside the increasingly popular pick-up.

Australia is Isuzu’s second-largest market outside Japan after Thailand and consequently has a strong voice within head office.

IUA sales and dealer operations manager Paul Vuko told GoAuto he was “fighting hard” to get the new-generation MU-7 – which is likely to get a more interesting model name if it does come to Australia.

He said a second model was essential to the survival of the company, which has grown rapidly in Australia since it broke away from General Motors in 2008.

The current model MU-7 is essentially a Thailand-only model – it was introduced in 2004 and is also sold in some smaller Asian markets – and will continue to be sold there for some time because the forthcoming replacement was only recently signed-off by the engineers in Thailand, where it is built alongside the D-Max, but only for the domestic market.

“We’ve been given a verbal agreement that they want to do it for us and I’m confident it will happen,” Mr Vuko told us.

10 center imageFrom top: Isuzu D-Max utility Chevrolet Trailblazer Nissan Pathfinder.

“They’ve done all the engineering for the Thai market, but they need to do more work for our market to have it released for Australia.”

Mr Vuko said the work was required to meet Australian Design Rules, and did not involve major engineering issues because the car was already a right-hand-drive model.

He said progress on the project had been on hold for at least six months because of last year’s Thai floods and also because the engineer contracted by Isuzu Ute Australia to oversee ADR compliance had been so busy working on the vital D-Max program leading up to the local launch.

The company will now focus again on the D-Max-based seven-seat SUV as it would provide the second model line that Mr Vuko said was vital for the company’s health and future growth plans in Australia.

“We really want it (the MU-7) for the Australian market,” he said. “We have been making a study of additional products (but) nothing is locked in and I couldn’t give you any indication of when something might happen.

“But it would make a big difference to the dealer network if we can get a second string to our bow.

“It would also help our customers who have bought D-Max and want to continue to deal with Isuzu when it comes to buying a different type of vehicle.

“We can’t survive on one model.

“We could have brought the old MU-7 here but we didn’t believe we could meet the expectations of the market in Australia, and it didn’t make sense to invest in a vehicle that would only have a few years here before the arrival of the all-new model.”

Unlike the similar Nissan Pathfinder, which is also built on a utility platform (in that case, the Navara), the MU-7 retains the ute’s leaf-spring rear suspension set-up. While the next-generation MU-7 may also go to coil springs for a more car-like ride, the new D-Max on which it is based has been praised for its ride quality and may get away without such an expensive change.

GM also produces a seven-seat SUV version of the closely related Colorado – which Holden has confirmed will come to Australia as the Colorado 7 – while Ford Australia is similarly working on an SUV variant based on the locally engineered T6 Ranger launched here late last year.

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