LOS ANGELES -- General Motors' plan to cancel its mid-sized SUVs spells more trouble for Isuzu in this country.
Isuzu's five-seat Ascender, one of only two models it sells here, is derived from GM's mid-sized SUV platform.
GM and supplier sources have confirmed that the mid-sized SUV platform will be dropped in a few years, but no date has been set. GM has not commented on the matter.
Also produced from the platform are the Chevrolet TrailBlazer, GMC Envoy, Buick Rainier and Saab 9-7X.
The demise of the Ascender would leave Isuzu's U.S. dealers with only the i-series pickup, which is derived from GM's small-pickup platform.
A GM source, who did not want to be identified, says there are no plans to give Isuzu a version of GM's new mid-sized crossovers. The source doubts that Isuzu will get a version of GM's redesigned small pickup, scheduled for the 2011 model year, to keep the i series in Isuzu's lineup.
So it looks as if Isuzu will run out of light vehicles to sell in the United States in 2010 at the latest.
Isuzu has not given its dealers any indication that it has new products on the drawing board.
"I have no comment on new product," Isuzu Motors America spokesman Chip Letzgus said. Asked about GM's plans to discontinue the TrailBlazer platform, he said that Isuzu "will cross that bridge when we get to it."
While Isuzu's light-vehicle business is declining, the company's commercial-vehicle business remains solid in the United States. Last year, it sold 15,787 medium- and heavy-duty vehicles here, up 0.5 percent.
Rebecca Lindland, senior market analyst for market researcher Global Insight, has Isuzu out of the light-vehicle business in the United States by the 2011 model year.
"We have not given them the next-generation Colorado or any of the new GM crossovers, and there are no suppliers who tell us they are bidding on Isuzu business," she says.
Isuzu's approximately 290 dealers are discouraged. They sold just 4,718 vehicles through June, a 37.9 percent decrease from year-ago numbers. The Ascender accounted for 58.5 percent of those sales.
Dealer Scott Lasher gave up his franchise near Sacramento, Calif., in April. In its place is a Kawasaki motorcycle store. "We were losing money on Isuzu," he says. "We found a better use for it."
Mike Donohue, owner of Big Red Isuzu in Norman, Okla., says his store is surviving on service work.
Isuzu had 436 dealerships at the beginning of 2004 and 294 in January 2006.
You may e-mail Kathy Jackson at [email protected]