Cars and Concepts

Isuzu decides to exit U.S.

Isuzu introduces the Ascender SUV at the New York International Auto Show on March 28, 2002. The largest SUV in the Isuzu lineup featured three rows of seats, a 275 hp engine and a four speed automatic transmission. Photo credit: REUTERS

Isuzu Motors, in a rare move by a Japanese automaker, on Jan. 30, 2008, says it will exit the U.S. light-vehicle market, effective Jan. 31, 2009.

Isuzu Motors America decided to leave because longtime partner General Motors, then careening toward bankruptcy, decided to stop building the Ascender SUV and its small-pickup platform.

At the time, Isuzu marketed only two models -- the five-seat Ascender, which was based on the Chevrolet TrailBlazer, and the i-series pickup, a derivative of GM's small pickup line.

"It has always been our intention to remain in the U.S. market," Terry Maloney, Isuzu Motor America's CEO, said in a statement at the time. "However, we were unable to secure any commercially viable replacements for these vehicles."

Isuzu Motors President Yoshinori Ida introduces the next-generation small pickup truck under an Isuzu-General Motors alliance in Tokyo on Oct. 23, 2001. Photo credit: REUTERS

Isuzu, one of Japan's smallest automakers, was a pioneer in marketing SUVs for the U.S. at the right time. The midsize Rodeo was the top-selling import brand SUV nameplate in 1992, with 45,257 sales, and in 1993, with 48,903.

The brand's U.S. sales continued to grow for much of the 1990s, but slowed dramatically after 2000 as more competition, notably from Japanese rivals, emerged in key light-truck segments.

Isuzu's U.S. sales slid from 103,937 in 1999 to just 7,098 in 2007.

Isuzu also built a version of its top-selling Rodeo for Honda. That vehicle, the Honda Passport, was marketed from the 1994 to 2002 model years. It was Honda's first truck entry in the United States. From 1996 to 1999, Isuzu also built a luxury SUV for Acura, the SLX. It was based on the Isuzu Trooper.

Other Japanese automakers to pull out of the United States were Suzuki in 2012 and Daihatsu, which offered the Rocky small SUV and Charade subcompact from 1988 to 1992.

Daewoo, a Korean automaker, left the U.S. in 2002.

You can reach David Phillips at dphillips@crain.com

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