Isuzu enters Africa with left hand drive

BY: Enoch Darfah Frimpong

The launch of the Isuzu 4&4 left hand drive maybe one of the most important events in the history of General Motors South Africa.

After covering 1.3 million kilometres of testing, mostly on the roads of the Eastern Cape the new Isuzu left hand drive 4&4 and 4&2  was launched in the  city of Port Elizabeth and expected to be rollout across the continent including Ghana in the coming months.

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“This will obviously be in a staggered approach country by country but our anticipation is that we can grow a lot with this vehicle,” ” according to Mario Spangenberg, president and managing director of GM Africa

Journalists were allowed to drive the new Isuzu across trying courses designed to display the vehicle’s capability through diverse conditions, including a few nerve-racking hills that could cause even the most sophisticated 4x4s to develop a tortoise neck.

Off-road driveability was severely tested and journalists took turns driving through muddy clay, large holes in the road and some menacing tracks.

Day two of the launch tested speed (both on and off-road), and while these trials were less impressive – considering the short strip of road and the advice not to exceed 80km/h – the new Isuzu pick-up performed smoothly.

Last year GM sold 180,493 vehicles on the continent, a growth in sales of 17.5 per cent from 2011. With new Isuzu product coming to market, General Motors is  expecting exponential growth.

GM  spent R250 million (US$27 million) in setting up the facility and with all the vehicles  the company turn out vehicles such as  Chevrolet, Opel and Isuzu.

GM has also invested R1 billion ($109 million) into their South African manufacturing facility in Port Elizabeth, where the new Isuzu pick-up will be assembled.

In addition, the company has a manufacturing plant in Kenya, which builds Isuzu trucks and buses to supply the East African market, and one in Egypt, their second biggest African market after South Africa.

Understanding each individual market

GM has just under 200 dealerships across Africa and Van Huyssteen said these on-the-ground partners help GM identify the opportunities and specifications for individual African markets.

“For example in Kenya, the single cab – you know, the workhorse vehicle – that’s more in demand there but if you go to a market like Angola, they want luxury, double cab bakkies or pick-ups.

So you can’t have a one size fits all solution”, she explained.

By Suleiman Mustapha / Graphic Business / Ghana