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With a new D-Max launched earlier this year, Isuzu UK is rapidly expanding its dealer network to cope with growing demand. Managing Director William... Isuzu Strengthens D-Max brand

With a new D-Max launched earlier this year, Isuzu UK is rapidly expanding its dealer network to cope with growing demand. Managing Director William Brown talks to Van User.

VanUser (VU): The latest D-Max launch seems to have gone very well. How are sales performing in 2021 and are you where you wanted to be?

William Brown: Sales for the new Isuzu D-Max have exceeded our expectations. Since the vehicle went on sale in March, we have received over 8,000 orders. However, unfortunately, due to Covid19 and semi-conductor issues, we will be limited to approximately 3,500 registrations in 2021.

The good news is that the factory remains open, but due to the high demand, we are working on longer than usual lead times. Customers are encouraged to contact dealers to reserve their vehicles and get on the waiting list as soon as possible.

VU: Has fleet remained a strong percentage of your sales this year and is it growing?

WB: Fleet customers have been quick to adopt the updated version of the D-Max, due to its proven track record in the field and improved comfort and safety.  Like the retail channels, we currently have more orders than we have vehicles. The Isuzu UK fleet team is working tirelessly to manage customer expectations and we already have received fleet orders for 2022 that have surpassed our 2021 sales.

VU: You talked about a possible change of mix, from 50% all-purpose, 30% national fleet and 20% adventure, to 45% all-purpose, 25% fleet and 30% adventure. Is this happening and what is pushing that change?

WB: As we anticipated, the biggest change has been in the adventure range, with the Isuzu D-Max V-Cross currently tracking around 35% of all sales. With its attractive bold design, highest levels of equipment, comfort and technology we have attracted many new customers to the brand.

VU: How has Isuzu been effected by the current removal from the pick-up market of Mitsubishi, Nissan, VW and Mercedes?

WB: Not only have we have seen more of these customers enquiring about the brand, but perhaps the biggest difference is the number of Mitsubishi and Nissan dealers that have been in contact with us to become an Isuzu dealer.  We know there is a strong affiliation with the Japanese brands, Nissan and Mitsubishi, it’s a natural choice to consider the Isuzu D-Max as an alternative.

VU: You spoke in the summer about taking on 11 dealers this year, which now appears to be 16 joining the network. At 105 outlets in total, is the network now complete, or are there still openings in some areas for additional dealers?

WB: 2021 has been a crazy year for dealer development, with the demand to become an Isuzu dealer at an all-time high. Due to restricted stock availability, we now have a waiting list of potential partners, and many have been postponed until 2022. We still have a handful of open points left, as some of the new dealers appointed this year have been a replacement for those dealers that have struggled to keep up with the growth of the brand and our future aspirations.

VU: Many van and LCV manufacturers are struggling with supply issues, with orders for vans now stretching well into the summer of next year. How has Isuzu reacted to the global supercapacitor shortage, shipping problems and various other external factors and how are Isuzu UK lead times for the various D-Max models?

WB: Yes, as mentioned earlier, Isuzu has been affected by semi-conductors and also component suppliers. Shipping has also been a big factor with lack of availability and increased shipment costs. All in all, a difficult period – but Isuzu has never stopped production and continues to supply vehicles, albeit in smaller numbers. Our approximate lead time currently is about nine months.

VU: Are you still seeing an increased appetite for conversion work at your fleet centre and is that helping to pull vehicles through to customers faster?

WB: Yes, we have a lot of new customers that are taking advantage of our in-house conversions. Due to the additional demand, we have recently recruited additional staff to support this area of growth.

VU: With V-Cross established and the AT35 a very specialised piece of kit, are there plans for other adventure models in the near future?

WB: Certainly, at some point in the future, there will be new adventure models. However, with the current stock shortage, our priority is on the current range of vehicles.

VU: Looking slightly further ahead, there appears to be a rapidly growing demand for electric and hybrid vans in the UK and obviously, 2030 is not that far away. With Ford having launched the electric F150 Lightning in the US and several other manufacturers looking at electric pick-ups, are any of your customers calling for alternative propulsion in a D-Max and could we see something in the future?

WB: Many of our existing fleet customers have a requirement for an electrified D-Max to meet their sustainably and CO2 targets. Isuzu has been working on EV technology for a while, timelines for when the technology will be available are still to be confirmed.

VU: Lastly, 2020 and 2021 have been very strange years for many of us. As, hopefully, things continue to settle down and the economy builds back, what are your hopes for 2022 for Isuzu UK?

WB: At this time of uncertainty, we are in contact with the factory almost weekly, and the early indications look promising that 2022 will be a good year. There is a strong demand for the new Isuzu D-Max and we are planning for sales growth that gets us firmly back on track for our longer-term target to achieve 10,000 sales.