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Isuzu aims to match Toyota ute sales in Australia
Isuzu UTE says its D-Max can match Toyota Hilux sales in time
9 Oct 2009
ISUZU UTE has revealed a bold long-term goal to match Toyota’s Hilux sales in Australia.
The company, which started selling its D-Max ute locally 12 months ago, competes head to head with Toyota for market leadership in Thailand and believes the same can happen here, in time.
Isuzu UTE is owned by the finance arm of Mitsubishi Corporation and has a close relationship with Isuzu Motors. Both feel the Isuzu D-Max ute can match Toyota’s Hilux in Australia, says Isuzu UTE Australia managing director Hitoshi Kono.
“That is our committed goal,” he said. “Our bosses were personally involved (in Thailand) so they know that that kind of situation never happens overnight.”
Isuzu UTE has sold 2434 vehicles in its first year, which the company says was close to its original target and a good achievement, given the impact of the global financial crisis that broke around the same time the model was introduced.
The company is aiming to push past the 3000 mark this year, and has announced a sales target of 5000 vehicles next year.
The monthly average since start up has been 202 vehicles, although sales picked up after the first few months and September stood at 339 in September.
This means Isuzu UTE has a long way to go to match the Toyota Hilux, which has averaged monthly sales of 2932 so far this year.
While it won’t mention any such goal, Isuzu UTE is also likely to be aiming to overtake the sales of Holden’s Colorado, which is a near-identical twin of the D-Max and hails from the same Thailand factory.
So far this year, Colorado sales are averaging 1197 a month.
Mr Kono said there was no pressure to catch up to Toyota in a hurry.
“Recently the top executive from Mitsubishi Corporation visited us and the message was: ‘think about the long term’,” he said.
“He told us not to just to try to do something to show off the result at the cost of long-term benefit.
“Of course, for the benefit of our dealers and ourselves, we need to promote a certain number, but more importantly we need to make the customer happy.”
Mr Kono was not involved with the Thailand operation but has studied it and believes a solid dealer network, reliability and a fuel economy advantage are behind the vehicle’s strength.
“The dealer network is rock solid,” he said. “We start from 50 years ago and deal with the grandchildren of the dealer. We maintain a very small dealer network, so each dealer is making a very good profit, so everyone has a great appetite to make a re-investment for the future.
“The product durability is so good. For the Thai people it is like buying a house.”
Isuzu UTE started with 38 Australian dealers in October 2008 and that has grown to 62.
Seven satellite outlets, with both sales and or service operations, have been appointed in small locations.
Isuzu UTE aims to have 70 dealers and 20 satellite outlets in operation in 2010, and by 2012 it wants 80 dealers and 30 satellite outlets.
It views Sydney as a key growth area. Currently it only has one dealership there and is hoping to appoint another four to capitalise on potential demand.
Without going into detail, Mr Kono said the Isuzu UTE operation was affected by the financial downturn, and one dealer walked away, but said the company was keeping costs in check.
“From our side we are doing ok, even during the most difficult time,” he said. “Even the biggest companies are losing money. We are only slightly bigger than a small candy shop and we control our costs and we have actually been positive in the last few months.”
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