The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

31 January 2008

You've seen your last Isuzu

A flashback to the fall of 2004:

Japan's oldest maker of motor vehicles — they built their first car in 1916 — has fallen on hard times in the US. For 2005, the model line has been cut from three trucks to one, and that one, the Ascender, is not a compelling buy, inasmuch as General Motors, which owns 12 percent of Isuzu, sells basically the same truck at Chevy, GMC, Buick and (with a heavy dose of artificial Swedener) Saab dealerships.

Still, I'm not ready to count them out yet. Isuzu still sells well outside the US, and in 1999 GM owned forty-nine percent of the company; three years later Isuzu managed to buy back most of the General's equity, and they plan to repurchase the rest and go it alone after the 2006 model year. They might even sell cars again here, something they haven't done since 1994.

In fact, GM gave them two more vehicles to sell, but still, it's not gonna happen:

Isuzu Motors, which helped popularize SUVs in the 1980s, said Wednesday that it will exit the U.S. consumer market on Jan. 31, 2009. The Japanese company blamed the move on General Motors ceasing production for Isuzu of the Ascender sport-utility vehicle and I-290 and I-370 pickups.

Ascender is a rebadged Chevrolet TrailBlazer, which GM is expected to discontinue. The I-series pickups are versions of the Chevy Colorado small pickup. "It has always been our intention to remain in the U.S. market," Terry Maloney, COO of Isuzu Motors America, said in a statement. "However, we were unable to secure any commercially viable replacements for these vehicles."

I was sort of hoping that Toyota, which owns 5.9 percent of Isuzu these days, might offer them a Daihatsu or two, but apparently that line is reserved for Scion these days.

We have been unable to verify the rumor that erstwhile company spokesperson Joe Isuzu has been hired as a consultant to the Clinton campaign.

Posted at 7:50 AM to Driver's Seat