Sayonara, Isuzu


Well, it’s February. That means Isuzu’s passenger car division has quietly exited, stage left, from the US auto market as we reported would happen year ago.

The end of an era! Our brief time with Isuzu began in the 70s when General Motors, desperate for a small car, sold Geminis rebadged as Opels. The Isuzu brand itself eventually did make it stateside, most well-known for its SUVs like the Trooper, Rodeo, Amigo and the bizarre VehiCROSS. Ultimately, as market share decreased, it was relegated to selling rebadged GM trucks.

Isuzu’s most popular – a relative term, to be sure – car was the Impulse, which in later generations was also rebadged as the Geo Storm. We always thought that if the company had only ventured into US sales earlier, with its pioneering JDM models like the twin-cam Bellet GT-R (pictured above) or the 117 Coupe, it would have fared better.

In memoriam, we have posted some old Isuzu USA ads, starring middling sit-com star David Leisure as your prototypical slimy car salesman, Joe Isuzu.

Fun fact: the bullet footage could only be filmed using yet another Impulse.

This P’up is bananas, B-A-N-A-N-A-S!

This is what they call drag racing.

From before the days of political correctness.

Clearly, Joe Isuzu was cheating with non-standard tires.

Go tell it on the mountain, Joe!

The company’s sole focus will now be on commercial trucks. Sayonara, Isuzu.

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8 Responses to Sayonara, Isuzu

  1. ProTree said:

    there goes my plan of owning a car from every japanese car make

  2. Oyaji Gaijin said:

    You make it sound like this is sad. There are some things to remember:

    1. Isuzu stock sold at 50 yen per share when it was under GM control. Right now, the entire automotive sector is suffering under the economic collapse, but Isuzu shares are currently selling at 104 yen per share. That’s an improvement, and not a small improvement.

    2. Isuzu is not asking for a government bailout. GM is. Chrysler is. Ford isn’t asking, but wouldn’t turn down free money. And Toyota is less than healthy. But Isuzu just keeps plugging along.

    3. There are more than a few automakers who also choose not to do business in the US: Fiat, Renault, Seat, Alfa Romeo, Lancia, Dacia, Peugeot, Citreon, Skoda, Daihatsu, Deawoo, Lada, MG, and Proton. More than a few of those are not small companies. Renault has been dominating WRC for a few years. Don’t be fooled into thinking that doing business in the US is the measure of a successful company, or a badge of having made it in the industry. Right now, everyone selling cars in the US is loosing their shirt (at least in the US market), and the only safe bet is to do as much business as possible outside the US.

    4. As far as Isuzu owners are concerned, the company stopped making cars 15 years ago, and stopped making trucks five years ago. Dealership parts departments remain open and parts availability has not changed. It’s the same 50/50 chance that they discontinued what you need as it was in 2008, in 2003, in 1997, and in 1995.

  3. S30ZK said:

    @ Oyaji Gaijin : Fiat and Alfa Romeo are coming and Daewoo builds the Chevrolet Aveo (Kalos). GM has a majority stake in Daewoo. The global automotive industry is deeply interconnected. However, I still agree with you about a US presence not equaling company health.

  4. G-zilla said:

    Isuzu is focusing more on Heavy Duty Trucks, specially on the Elf. They’re in the process of building a factory where they’re gonna build the 450, 400 and the 300 here in Mexico. The word is that they’re gonna bring in the higher classes also. My source is good (I sell a truck that competes with them).

  5. coupeZ600 said:

    @ G-Zilla: Sometime back in the Early to Mid 80’s, My brother bought a NPR (400, I think) for our trucking company to use on long runs when there wasn’t enough freight to warrant sending one of our Class 7-8 semi-tractor trailers. When my brother pulled into the Yard with it, we all walked out to laugh. It was the first year it was sold in the U.S., and while us rednecks were finally accepting the fact that Japanese cars were not the junk we once thought they were, we thought that there was no way they could build A TRUCK, even a little one. A couple of the Drivers were openly hostile to the truck, blatantly dumping the clutch at red-line under a full load and other things (never with Management around of course) just trying to break it so they could call a tow-truck, and say I-Told-You-So. In the whole time we owned it, it broke down once, for one day, because it sheared two of the four Starter bolts and metric pitch bolts were still uncommon here, or it wouldn’t have even been broke down a day. This truck worked all-day, every day, on some of the worst roads on the Navajo Reservation in NW Arizona. Best Truck we ever owned.

  6. G-zilla said:

    I know, our competition is good. They’re the most fierce on the “flat-nose” (we call ‘em “chatos”) segment down here. I sell Fuso which I think is a great truck also.

  7. Oyaji Gaijin said:

    Isuzu seems to be expanding in multiple areas, outside the US. The D-Max is the dominant pickup truck from Saudi Arabia to Indonesia. Toyota has been chasing their sales for a decade. The Chevy Colorado is an Isuzu design, licensed to GM. Isuzu also did the cosmetic design to match the Avalanche, Silvarado, etc., to the Colorado styling. Isuzu fielded two teams in the Dakar Rally this year. Not to mention the Isuzu Panther, which Chevy continues to rebadge in the Asian market as the Tavera. They continue to build the Getrag licensed transmissions for the Chevy Cobalt/Pontiac G5/Saturn Ion. And they supply all the engines for the Hindustan Motors Ambassador sedans in India.

  8. Oyaji Gaijin said:

    My mistake, Isuzu fielded _three_ teams in Dakar this year.

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