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Isuzu Ute shoots for 15,000-plus sales

Sales max: The Isuzu D-Max 4x4 sold 1269 units last month, compared with the Mazda BT-50 4x4 that shifted 762 units.

D-Max ute and MU-X SUV sales soar, with Isuzu Ute banking on further local growth

11 Jul 2014

BUOYED by its strongest sales month since launching in Australia in 2008, Japanese utility and SUV specialist Isuzu Ute is now running 57.8 per cent ahead of its record-breaking sales pace in 2013 and has forecast “well above” 15,000 sales this year.

With the all-new MU-X seven-seat SUV joining the D-Max utility range late last year, Isuzu Ute is now experiencing exponential sales growth, shifting 2117 units in June to bring its year-to-date total to 7846 units.

Sales of the 4x2 D-Max are down 6.4 per cent YTD, but the higher-volume 4x4 is up 16.2 per cent to almost 5000 units, and the MU-X has racked up almost 2400 sales in the first six months.

Isuzu Ute’s sales climbed 31.2 per cent last year to break through the 10K barrier and finish on 10,209 units. The company also recently confirmed it had sold its 40,000th vehicle in Australia.

Isuzu Ute Australia (IUA) managing director and CEO Yasuhiro Takeuchi stopped short of specifying a sales target for this year, but told GoAuto that it would be well above the 15K mark.

“Fifteen thousand units is definitely realistic,” he said. “Our 2014 sales plan is in excess of this figure and to date we are on track to achieve this.

“Our year-on-year sales growth has averaged 29 per cent over the last five years, and we are determined to improve on this in the future.

 center imageLeft: Isuzu Ute Australia managing director and CEO Yasuhiro Takeuchi.

“Maintaining the status quo isn’ t a term we use here at IUA.” While the growing popularity of the D-Max utility range has had a positive impact on overall sales, the MU-X SUV has been responsible for pushing the Japanese brand to new heights.

To the end of June this year, IUA has sold 2239 examples of the big seven-seater, with 639 of those shifted last month alone.

The strong June result saw the rugged MU-X outsell a number of softer competitors in the busy large SUV over $70,000 segment, including the Hyundai Santa Fe (555), Nissan Pathfinder (460), Mazda CX-9 (312) and Kia Sorento (230).

It also sold more than its similarly utilitarian rivals in the segment, including the Mitsubishi Challenger (297) and the mechanically related Holden Colorado 7, which sold 141 units last month.

Year-to-date the MU-X is behind the Santa Fe (3179), but still ahead of the CX-9 (1747), Pathfinder (2152), Sorento (1338), Subaru Outback (1325), and well ahead of its Colorado 7 twin (734).

Mr Takeuchi said the MU-X could “absolutely” sustain its current sales levels and highlighted the versatility of the vehicle as a strong selling point.

“We have only captured 4.7 per cent share of this (large SUV) market. There is still plenty of room to grow and because of its versatility the MU-X is such a great alternative when you compare both the value proposition and features to some of the other seven-seat SUV options in the segment,” he said.

“We are seeing a combination of buyers. Some are coming down from the bigger 4WD-based wagons, some across from Prado, and others up from the five-seat soft-roader SUVs.” The MU-X is available in two- and all-wheel-drive guise and kicks off from $40,500 (plus on-road costs) for the base LS-M 2WD, topping out at $53,500 for the top-spec 4WD LS-T.

Mr Takeuchi said the flagship LS-T has been the top-seller in the range, and while the company is happy with 4x2 sales, he said “there is definitely more ground we can take in this area”.

The D-Max utility also enjoyed its best-ever sales month in June, with 209 4x2 units shifted and 1269 4x4s, the latter marking the first time the four-wheel-drive variant had broken through the 1000 barrier in a single month.

This was enough to outsell Mazda’s 4x4 BT-50 for the month (762 units), although the BT was well ahead of the D-Max in the 4x2 stakes (427), and in YTD terms with both drivelines, the Mazda is currently 1155 units clear.

While D-Max has the upper hand for now on the BT in the 4x4 segment (4888 v 4351), the Isuzu ute trails segment leaders by a long shot, with the Toyota HiLux the dominant force on 13,743 sales, followed by the locally engineered Ford Ranger (10,345), Mitsubishi’s ageing Triton (9447) and the mechanically related Holden Colorado (8015).

Mr Takeuchi said the recent upgrade to a five-star ANCAP crash safety rating for all D-Max 4x4 crew-cab variants had helped boost sales, thanks to increased fleet business.

Mazda is clearly a major target for the brand, with the IUA chief describing last month’s performance in the 4x4 segment as “a great achievement” and “a milestone we are working hard to repeat again in coming months”.

According to Mr Takeuchi, Isuzu Ute is no longer an unknown quantity in Australia.

“Obviously we spend considerable resources marketing our vehicles, but to be honest our customers are our greatest asset when it comes to building the popularity of our brand. Our customer satisfaction is something we are extremely proud of,” he said.

“When you have happy, satisfied customers they share their positive experience with their friends and become ambassadors for the brand. We are fortunate to have extremely reliable and durable products that are fit for purpose and don’t let our customers down,” he said.

Isuzu Ute’s dealer network has grown from 39 locations in 2008 to 91 across Australia this year, but Mr Takeuchi said further growth was planned.

“Our dealer development program is aggressive and in line with our sales plan – we would like to see around 100 Isuzu Ute dealerships by the end of this year,” he said.

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