LOS ANGELES — It won't set the world on fire, but Isuzu logged an 11.4 percent year-over-year sales increase in the first quarter — climbing to 2,007 units for the three-month period.
Pretty meager, for sure, but it marked the first time that the lame-duck brand has recorded a quarterly sales increase since the second quarter of 2000.
For dealers it was great news. Isuzu will stop selling light vehicles in the United States on Jan. 31, 2009. The brand's 201 dealers must clear their inventories by that time, and so far the factory is keeping its promise to help them do that.
Dealers had 3,125 vehicles in stock on March. 1, said Isuzu Motors America spokesman Chip Letzgus. About 20 percent were 2007 models.
Letzgus says the company is offering dealer cash incentives ranging from $4,000 to $8,000 to move the three Isuzu nameplates — the five-seat Ascender SUV and the i-290 and i-370 small pickups. Dealers say they can order new Isuzus through April.
Dealers also could earn additional money — as much as $1,500 per vehicle sold — through March 31 if they spend at least half of that money on exclusive Isuzu advertising.
The advertising program will not be renewed, but the lavish dealer cash rebates will continue.
"It's really too bad about them leaving," says Mike Donohue, owner of Automax Hyundai-Isuzu-Subaru in Norman, Okla. "But the company couldn't have done a better thing for the dealers" than the incentives.
Donohue, an Isuzu dealer since 1989, says "all of the rebates come straight to the dealers. We use them to work the deals."