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Isuzu launches in Port Elizabeth

16 February 2018 - 16:58 By Shaun Gillham
File photo of the Isuzu logo.
File photo of the Isuzu logo.

Japan’s Isuzu Motors made its official debut in Port Elizabeth on Friday after taking over General Motors South Africa facilities around the country and 1 000 GMSA employees.

The debut also served as a platform to reveal the company’s new SUV segment contender‚ the Isuzu MUX (Multi Utility Crossover).

Trading as Isuzu Motors South Africa (IMSA) since the start of 2018‚ Isuzu stepped into the breach created by the exit of GMSA‚ which had been manufacturing and retailing Isuzu vehicles under licence up until the American’s automaker’s official departure from the country at the end of last year.

IMSA‚ which joins more than 140 fully Japanese-owned companies operating in South Africa‚ bought the balance of its shareholding in GMSA’s Isuzu operations and took over GMSA’s extensive facilities‚ simultaneously preventing a jobs bloodbath by absorbing 1 000 former GMSA employees.

Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Minister Rob Davies and Japan’s ambassador to South Africa Shigeyuki Hiroki joined a long list of high level guests at the launch.

Speaking at the event‚ which was held at manufacturing plant in Struandale‚ Port Elizabeth‚ the president and representative director of Isuzu Motors of Japan‚ Masanori Katayama‚ said Isuzu was committed to expanding its business in South Africa.

“This is the first commercial and light commercial vehicle manufacturing operation outside of Japan in which we have acquired a 100% ownership. We are represented in 30 countries outside of Japan and successfully operate 47 manufacturing plants in these countries with joint venture partners.

“Our decision with regard to South Africa demonstrates the confidence we have in this market and also is indicative of our longer-term view that South Africa will serve as an important base for our future growth on the African continent.”

A year ago the company acquired a 57.7% majority shareholding in the Kenyan truck and bus assembly operation that supplies Isuzu vehicles to East African markets‚ while commanding a leading 34% share of the Kenyan new vehicle market.

Isuzu also has a 20% shareholding in joint venture manufacturing operations in Egypt‚ and where the company has led in the market for 10 years in a row.

The light commercial vehicle pick-up‚ which is produced there and accounts for more than 90% share of the market segment‚ is derived off the Isuzu KB pick-up.

Isuzu Motors South Africa CEO Michael Sacke said the company’s initial focus would be to consolidate its operations while laying the foundation for the company’s future success.

“Our short-term focus is on implementing our transitional plans‚ ensuring the sustainability of our operations‚ further strengthening our product portfolio and relocating the truck operations from Kempston Road to the Struandale plant. As we do this‚ we will need to demonstrate excellence in everything we do and the ability to lead in key segments of the market.”

He said that in the medium term the company would need to plan for the successful launch of future products‚ implement measures to increase its domestic market share and increase its exports into sub-Saharan Africa markets.