Isuzu Motors America told its dealers at the make meeting that it is canceling the project that would have given Isuzu a new-generation Rodeo for the 2006 model year.
Instead, Isuzu officials said the company will create a seven-passenger SUV that will be manufactured in Thailand and arrive for the 2006 model year.
Isuzu is considering putting the Trooper name on the new SUV.
The abrupt product change took many dealers by surprise, but dealer council chairman Bob Scena, owner of Showcase Isuzu in Bourne, Mass., said Isuzu will have an SUV with three rows of seats to replace the five-passenger Rodeo.
"The five-passenger SUV is dead," said Scena after the meeting. "The move to the bigger product is where the market is going."
Some dealers expected Isuzu to introduce Thai-built vehicles to the U.S. market but not to cancel the Rodeo, which represents the line's highest volume product. Some also believed the DMAX pickup that Isuzu builds in Thailand would be introduced in the United States.
But company officials told dealers at the meeting that importing that pickup is out of the question. The reason: Pickups face a 25 percent import duty - a penalty known in the industry as the chicken tax.
Terry Maloney, president of Isuzu Motors America, vowed that fighting the chicken tax will be the company's top trade priority this year.
The company also told dealers they will receive a direct-injection gasoline-powered engine on the Axiom and the Rodeo next year.
In addition, the line will receive from General Motors a short wheelbase version of the Ascender, also made by GM. The short-wheelbase version will be a version of the GMC Envoy.