If you ask Andrew Harbison, director and chief operating officer of Isuzu Australia, it’s not a case of if Isuzu rolls out a new linehaul prime mover in this market, but when.
Harbison was speaking to Big Rigs shortly after the Truck Industry Council (TIC) released its monthly sales tallies for January, 2022, which saw Isuzu again punch well above its weight in the Kenworth-dominated heavy-duty sector.
Isuzu notched an impressive 127 sales (46 more than it recorded in the same month in 2021), to be just 23 shy of Kenworth’s 150-strong opening salvo for 2022, and 18 clear of third-place Volvo.
It’s not the first time that the light and medium-duty powerhouse has made such an auspicious start against the linehaul mainstays. A long-time podium presence in the heavies, Isuzu grabbed top honours in January, 2017, and has been nipping at the heels of Kenworth and Volvo ever since.
Not bad for a badge that for now mostly contests in the heavy-duty vocational sector with agitators and its popular ‘fit-for-purpose’ FY range.
“One of my predecessors many, many years ago said that there was a desire and a belief that we could be number one in the heavy-duty market,” said Harbison.
“Now, I’m not naïve enough to think that would be achieved easily but I think if we could get the right products and develop our presence in that true heavy end of the market, the true prime mover market, then that would be something we would be shooting for.”As for the timeline, Harbison joked that he’d love to have a prime mover he could sell in Australia today, but there are more than a few factors to align first.
“It will become available, we’re not sure if that’s going to be next month, or next year. We’re just waiting for that story to unfold at the moment,” he said.
Internationally, Harbison said the Volvo-UD collaboration is something that Isuzu is keen to explore and “get a picture on”. In a new strategic alliance finalised last year, Volvo transferred ownership of its UD Trucks business to Isuzu Motors with one of its goals to create the “best long-term conditions for a stronger heavy-duty truck business in Japan and across international markets”.
“UD is now an Isuzu family-owned company and what that looks like at some stage in the future we’re not 100 per cent sure. But that UD product in the heavy-duty market is spec-for-spec, very good at the moment.
“What else comes out of the Volvo [alliance], or even something like the Cummins collaboration from the US and Japan. We’ve made no secrets previously that maybe there is something we could look at there.
“I think that any of us playing in this market at the moment is pretty excited. We’re on a cusp of major change. The new technology is coming, and the market is highly stimulated. It’s a fantastic time to be in the market.”
Meanwhile, along with topping the overall truck sales charts for 33 consecutive years, 2022 also marks Isuzu Trucks’ 50th anniversary in Australia.
In celebrating the brand’s achievements, Harbison lauded the ‘Isuzu family’ past and present.
“There’s little doubt the story of Isuzu in this country has been underpinned by a fantastic product, born out of a union between a Tokyo ship-building company and an energy producer back in 1916, both motivated by one clear vision – to build quality vehicles,” said Harbison.
“Although, perhaps hidden somewhat is the story of the people, and the commitment of those people in delivering superior support, better ideas and the best service in the business.”
Harbison singled out former director and chief operating officer Phil Taylor for special mention: “Phil’s legacy at IAL is as storied as it is lasting. Coming from a truck sales background, Phil brought some street smarts to the leadership at IAL and can be credited with modernising the Isuzu dealer footprint from a sales perspective.”