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Market Insight: IUA rides wave of 2021 recovery

Big start: Both the ageing MU-X (left) and new-gen D-Max (below) have contributed to Isuzu’s strong first-quarter performance.

All-new D-Max, local holiday-making helping to spur strong start to 2021 for Isuzu


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19 Apr 2021

AFTER disastrous selling conditions in 2020 due to the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the last five months have seen a massive turnaround in sales numbers for most OEMs, and few have ridden the recovery better than Isuzu Ute Australia (IUA).


As the overall 2020 new-car market fell 13.7 per cent for the year, IUA experienced a similar decline, falling 12.6 per cent with its two model offerings – the D-Max pick-up and related MU-X seven-seat SUV – both slipping a similar amount, with the former experiencing a new-generation model changeover in the second half of the year.


Starting in November, the national new-car market began to turn around following 31 preceding months of consecutive sales declines, and in 2021 the train has kept rolling with the market up 13.0 per cent to the end of March.


While the overall market recovery in 2021 has been steady, IUA has jumped out of the blocks, improving by a staggering 68.2 per cent as a range of factors contribute to the Japanese brand’s strong resurgence.


Chief among those would be the arrival of the all-new D-Max – which has always been the better seller of the brand’s two models – which in the first quarter of the year produced 5581 sales, a massive improvement over the 3194 moved over the same period last year.


The D-Max has also been a regular feature in recent VFacts top-10 model lists, finishing ninth overall in March, eighth in February and ninth in January.


Its combined volume through the first quarter of the year makes it the fourth best-selling pick-up on the market behind the heavyweight Toyota HiLux (14,040) and Ford Ranger (10,003), as well as the Mitsubishi Triton (6161).


In particular, the D-Max has found favour in the tradie-oriented 4x2 pick-up segment, a segment where it has traditionally thrived with only the HiLux (3164) ahead of the D-Max (1547) for rear-drive sales.


When asked whether the company was doing anything in particular to spur 4x2 D-Max sales, an IUA spokesperson said the brand didn’t have to spruik the ute, but rather its features were what made it a popular choice.


“Nothing particularly (is done to enhance sales) but the 4x2 D-Max (last-generation and new-generation) has always been a strong favourite amongst private, ABN and fleet buyers in that market and the new D-Max is quite a compelling package; offering 450Nm of torque from the invulnerable 3.0-litre turbo-diesel and the most comprehensive suite of safety and connectivity features available in the 4x2 one-tonne segment, with a five-star ANCAP safety rating across the entire range,” the company said.


The ongoing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and the recent surge in sales has meant that some manufacturers are struggling to keep up with demand. with shipping problems and chip shortages leading to supply issues.


IUA said that for the D-Max, some higher-spec variants were facing wait times, while other grades were ready for sale.


“Regarding available stock, demand and wait time on the new D-Max, it does depend on vehicle specification, colour and accessories ordered,” it said.


“Some models are available and in stock currently while there continues to be ongoing supply delays on certain higher-grade Isuzu D-Max models due to the unprecedented levels of demand at present.”


Meanwhile, IUA’s MU-X seven-seat SUV offering has also experienced sales success so far in 2021, despite the fact that it is still sold here in previous-generation guise (relative to the D-Max).


MU-X sales through the first quarter are up 54.9 per cent from 1591 examples in 2020 to 2456, making it the third-most popular offering in the very competitive large SUV segment, behind only the Toyota Prado (3977) and Subaru Outback (2503) – and ahead of all other pick-up based SUVs like the Mitsubishi Pajero Sport (1598), Ford Everest (1433) and Toyota Fortuner (682).


When asked about what the brand was doing to spur MU-X sales given an all-new version is around the corner, IUA said it was providing driveaway pricing and extra kit to sweeten the deal.


“Until the end of April we do have driveaway pricing across the range and 4x4 MU-X models come with a free Tow Bar, seven-pin harness and electronic brake controller, worth $1,918.”


Another possible reason for the upswing in sales could be the COVID-induced border closures that are forcing Australians to holiday at home.


With caravan sales through the roof, buyers also need a car to tow with, and Isuzu’s strong reputation as a capable tow rig may also be playing a part in the brand’s 2021 success.


In any case, the arrival of a new-gen MU-X (IUA has not provided any details as to the timing of the new model) should also see a sales boost from the brand, which Isuzu will no doubt hope will continue its hot start to the year.

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