LOS ANGELES -- General Motors has put a lump of coal in Isuzu's Christmas stocking.
GM will end production of the seven-seat Isuzu Ascender in February when it closes its assembly plant in Oklahoma City. The model accounted for 22.5 percent of Isuzu's U.S. sales of 11,388 this year through November.
The loss is more dreary news for dealers, who will limp along with only three poor-selling vehicles: the five-seat Ascender and the i280 and i350 pickups. The pickups are based on the GMC Canyon.
"It's unfortunate from our standpoint, because the Ascender seven-passenger has been a successful and profitable part of our lineup since its introduction in 2003," Terry Maloney, president of Isuzu Motors America, said in a letter to dealers.
He added, though, that Isuzu's U.S. unit will post a profit for fiscal 2005 for the first time since 2000. The U.S. unit has cut costs drastically.
"Be assured that I am confident about our future, and I strongly encourage you to share that confidence," Maloney said.
Scott Lasher, owner of Lasher Isuzu in Sacramento, Calif., and chairman of the Isuzu dealer council, said the big Ascender represented only about 10 percent of his sales.
"Still, it's hard to lose product when you have a narrow product offering in the first place," he says. But, he adds, "The pickups are starting to catch on."
Earlier this year Isuzu Motors Ltd. projected it would generate $46.6 million in North American operating profits this year, compared with a $3.7 million loss last year. But it expected commercial trucks, not light vehicles, to account for most of the turnaround.
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