GM, Isuzu end pickup truck tie-up in Asia; GM eyes more upscale market

Isuzu had developed its D-Max pickup truck under the agreement with GM.

UPDATED: 7/22/16 8:54 am ET – adds details

BEIJING/TOKYO — General Motors and Isuzu Motor Co. have agreed to stop working together on developing midsize pickup trucks made in Asia, as the U.S. automaker focuses on the higher end of the market while the Japanese firm sticks to selling vehicles for everyday commercial purposes.

The automakers said on Friday they had cancelled their pickup truck deal struck in 2014, the latest under a joint product development arrangement that began in 2006.

They added that separate collaboration agreements, including one for commercial vehicles in the U.S., remained intact.

“The direction each company wanted to take (for the vehicles) was changing,” an Isuzu spokesman said, adding that the Japanese truck maker intended to continue making trucks to be used as workhorse vehicles in markets including Australia, the Middle East, and Asia.

“Both GM and Isuzu agree that due to unique requirements for each company, joint development of the next-generation midsize pickup truck for (GM) markets is no longer the optimal model for this project,” GM said in a statement.

Under the agreement, Isuzu, which specializes in light trucks and commercial vehicles, had developed its D-Max pick-up truck, marketing the model in Asia and beyond, focusing on markets including Australia and the Middle East.

GM produced a version of its Colorado pick-up trucks and Trailblazer SUVs for Asian and Australasian markets. The Asia-produced Colorado pickup is different from a model sold under the same name in the U.S., which GM has developed on its own.

One GM executive said the “unique requirements” for GM are about the strategic shift it began making last year in Southeast Asia where it is now trying to focus more on competing in the higher end of the region’s truck and SUV markets.

Despite the obvious benefits of collaborating on development such as sharing costs, the executive, who declined to be named because he is not authorized to discuss the move, said that GM had decided not to try to copy its Japanese rivals in Southeast Asia where brands like Isuzu, Toyota Motor Corp. and Mitsubishi Motors Corp. dominate.

“It doesn’t make sense for us trying to copy the business strategy of the Japanese rivals in Southeast Asia,” the executive said.

GM’s revamped strategy is especially pronounced in Thailand, where the automaker is now launching sleeker pick-up trucks.

Isuzu and compatriot Mazda Motor Corp. earlier this month announced that Isuzu would produce next-generation pickup trucks for Mazda outside North America.

Last year, GM said it would return to the medium-duty commercial truck business in the U.S. after a seven-year hiatus. GM plans to sell trucks from Isuzu Motors as rebadged Chevrolets, the companies announced. They include six so-called low-cab forward models.

Automotive News contributed to this report.

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