LOS ANGELES -- Isuzu has made it official: It is leaving the light-vehicle market in the United States.
In a conference call today with the board of the U.S. Isuzu Dealer Advisory Council, Isuzu said it will stop selling new vehicles here on Jan. 31, 2009.
Its very sad, said council Chairman John Galeani, who owns City Isuzu in Jacksonville, Fla. Ive been with them for 20 years, but they are committed to making it as painless as possible for the dealer body.
Roy Greenblatt, who owns three Isuzu stores in New Jersey, said the company has offered generous buyouts to dealers.
1. Dealers will receive $1,000 per new car they sold on average for the past four years.
2. They can remain Isuzu service dealers.
3. The company plans to spiff up incentives to help dealers clear out their inventory.
In a press release this afternoon, Isuzu Motors America said it is leaving because General Motors may discontinue the Ascender SUV and its small-pickup platform.
Isuzu has 201 dealers and sells only two models -- the five-seat Ascender, based on the Chevrolet TrailBlazer; and the i-series pickup, derived from GMs small-pickup platform.
It has always been our intention to remain in the U.S. market, Terry Maloney, Isuzu Motor Americas CEO, said in a statement. However, we were unable to secure any commercially viable replacements for these vehicles.
Although Isuzu will cease supplying passenger vehicles in North America, it will continue to stand behind its customers and dealers here for years to come.
Specifically, Isuzu will continue to honor all product warranties and roadside-assistance programs and will maintain its owner relations call center. Isuzu will be offering all current U.S. dealers the opportunity to continue on as service dealerships for Isuzu.
Greenblatt said the company will sign new contracts with dealers who want to stay.
These are nice deals for the current dealers, he said. The blue sky isnt much for Isuzu stores. Theyre paying us more than we could probably get if we sold the stores on our own.
Isuzu had successful past
Isuzu had the right ideas about SUVs for the U.S. market at the right time. In 1992 and 1993, the mid-size Rodeo was the top-selling import brand SUV nameplate with sales of 45,257 units. In 1993, it sold 48,903 units.
The brand's sales pace continued for much of the 1990s, but slowed dramatically after 2000 as more competition emerged in the segment.
Isuzu sales have slid from 103,937 in 1999 to 7,098 in 2007.
Isuzu also built a version of its top-selling Rodeo midsize SUV for Honda. That vehicle, the Honda Passport, was available from 1994-2002. It was Honda's first ever truck entry in the United States. From 1996-1999, Isuzu also built for Honda a luxury SUV called the Acura SLX. It was based on the Isuzu Trooper.
Isuzu, meanwhile, signed 13 new dealers in the past year. Those dealers mainly were in the used-car business or had franchises that did not have trucks.
I think when they signed on the new dealers, they really believed they were going to get new product, Greenblatt said.
Isuzu will stay in the medium-duty truck business in the United States. Galeani has a medium-duty franchise.
The medium-duty business is big enough for us to be OK, he said. Well survive. But this still is no fun. This is a very sad day.
A Japanese failure in the United States is a rare occurrence. The last Japanese automaker to pull out of the United States was Daihatsu, which offered the Rocky small SUV and Charade subcompact in the United States from 1988 to 1992.
But the company never sold more than 17,000 units a year and was forced out of the United States because of voluntary export quotas in effect at the time.
Daewoo, a Korean automaker, quit the U.S. market in 2002.
Richard Truett contributed to this report