As milestones go Isuzu Trucks has celebrate a few over its years of dominance in the Australian truck market and this year marks a significant one as the brand brings up 50 years of operation in this country.
To put that in perspective think for a moment about the fact that in 1922, 50 years before Isuzu truck officially started being sold here, there were still precious few trucks on Australian roads and they were very unsophisticated clunky behemoths.
By the time Isuzu arrived, initially badged as Bedfords and sold by GM-Holden the nature of trucks and road transport had changed profoundly but few would have realised that this then little known Japanese truck maker would in a handful of years go on to totally dominate the Australian market for a record 33 years as number one.
Isuzu says that in celebrating the milestone of 50 years of operation in Australia, its key focus is on the people and product that have contributed to its enviable achievement.
Current Isuzu Australia director and COO, Andrew Harbison, lauded the ‘Isuzu family’ both 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 Harbisson.
“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,” he added.
“In 2022, we celebrate our 50th anniversary milestone, but all with one eye on the future and a steadfast focus on helping build businesses for a long time to come, because we know that reputations are riding on us.”
IAs we said earlier, Isuzu was first introduced here by GMH in 1972, Isuzu and initially marketed as ‘Bedford by Isuzu’, which helped appeal to an audience unfamiliar with the brand. The Bedford tie-up built buyer confidence and stands as the nucleus to the Isuzu brand we know and trust today.
Those who had experienced the quirks of mid 20th century British automotive engineering would question that Bedford helped build confidence in Isuzu. Our assessment is that Isuzu built its own reputation helped by the massive GM-H dealer network which at that satage was th e best in the country
That became apparent when just three years later, Isuzu proved its performance and reliability and the ‘Bedford’ name was dropped—leaving the Isuzu brand to stand on its own in the Australian market.
General Motors’ sold its 40 per cent stake in I-GM to Isuzu Motors Limited (Japan), in 2005 and the Australian subsidiary was now 100 per cent owned by Isuzu.
General Motors (I-GM) president and MD, Masayuki Murata, presided over this transition and acted as a conduit between the parent company and the successful Australian operation.
Andrew Harbison said that Murata-san became a fierce advocate of product development for the Australian market.
“It’s the contribution of people like Murata-san that have seen Australia end up as one of the most respected and envied Isuzu subsidiaries in the world,” Harbison said.
“Murata-san’s approach has set the tone for some of our other Japanese Managing Directors, Mike Yoda and Hiroko Yaguchi, to name a few,” he added.
“Isuzu GM (I-GM) was formed in 1989, and that year also marked the beginning of Isuzu’s leadership in the Australian truck market,” Harbison noted.
Harbisson said that along with many developments that followed into the new millennium, a critical role throughout the period were key players such as Harbisson’s predecessor as director and COO of the company, Phil Taylor.
“Phil’s legacy at IAL is as storied as it is lasting,” Taylor said.
“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.
“Phil was a people person at heart and recognised talent when he saw it. IAL’s internal processes and practices definitely took a huge leap forward under Phil’s watch, too,” Harbison added.
“Phil will be remembered for his ‘take no prisoners’ approach to business and an internal drive for perfection that permeates through to today.”
As Isuzu looks towards the next 50 years in Australia, Harbisson says a new breed of leadership has been warmly welcomed, with the business expanding its sales, innovation and strategy platforms.
“We’re extremely proud of our past, the achievements, the industry firsts and our mantle as a trusted road transport solutions provider for Australian businesses,” he said.
“Similarly, we’re acutely aware of what awaits us as an industry leader. Change is well and truly upon us, and we’re continually working to assemble the best and brightest in the business.
“We’ve bolstered our capabilities in a number of areas, principally under the overarching banners of ‘Strategy and Innovation’,” Andrew Harbison concluded.