Text and photos by Aries B. Espinosa
ISUZU Philippines Corp.’s (IPC) celebration of its 20th year of operations in the country, held on Sept. 27, couldn’t help but turn “blue.”
Not that there wasn’t any reason to be joyful. On the contrary, IPC at the event unveiled Isuzu’s new Blue Power Technology diesel engines, as well as distributed among the guests a 100-page commemorative book. Titled Milestones of Trust, the book chronicles the auto manufacturing giant’s numerous achievements, including the fact that the 1.3-hectare IPC complex at the Laguna Technopark in Biñan, inaugurated July 31, 1997, has already assembled 254,893 units (by the time of the book’s printing). The book further states that “every day, IPC’s 200-plus assembly-line staff produces 42 light commercial vehicles and 24 commercial vehicles.”
The Milestones book also featured IPC’s iconic vehicles. Who can forget the ubiquitous Hilander of the late 1990s and early 2000s? How could we ignore the Asian utility vehicle Crosswind, which has sold more than 100,000 units from 2001 to 2015, making it one of IPC’s all-time best-sellers? Its pickups have carried their own weight as well — and then some. The Fuego and D-Max cemented Isuzu’s reputation as a maker of some of the toughest and most dependable pickups out there. And then, starting with the popular Alterra (which replaced the Trooper in 2005), IPC made a bid for the SUV market in 2014 that saw the introduction of the Mu-X, which immediately won Car of the Year-Philippines honors as best midsize SUV.
These light commercial vehicles form just half of the company’s story. The bigger picture has been IPC’s dominance of the local truck industry for the past 17 years. And the acknowledged workhorse of the Isuzu truck brand, the N-Series, has carried IPC to the top of the truck leader boards. From selling just 1,352 units in its first year, IPC sold 6,079 light-, medium- and heavy-duty trucks in 2016. From 1996 to 2016, IPC has sold a total of 38,166 trucks.
While Milestones fondly recalls IPC’s eventful first 20 years, the Sept. 27 celebration focused more on the future of IPC. The venue was lined with IPC’s current truck and light commercial vehicles, which are now powered by Euro4-compliant “Blue Power Technology” diesel engines. Blue Power Technology, now present in IPC’s vehicle lineup, is claimed to provide better engine output, fuel economy and durability, yet have cleaner emissions.
Through this technology, the 4JJ1-TCX engine that powers the D-Max and Mu-X is able to generate 175 hp and 380 Nm of torque.
The face-lifted Mu-X is equipped with a six-speed transmission for both manual and automatic versions. It also comes with automatic leveling headlights, hill-descent control and an eight-inch touch screen panel for the entertainment system that has a USB port and text-to-speech navigation.
The new D-Max boasts of hill-start assist and hill-descent control, as well as multiple USB ports.
IPC has completely changed the Isuzu N-Series light-duty trucks as these — along with the medium-duty F-Series models — are now powered by the Blue Power Technology diesel engines. The C- and E Series lineups have also been made Euro4-compliant, and have engines that generate higher torque at low speeds due to a modified turbocharger and increased engine displacements.
Hajime Koso, who has served as IPC president since April 2015, acknowledged the company’s phenomenal growth despite the trying early years of its existence, and also revealed ambitious goals for the automaker.
“This year, we have increased our sales target to more than 30,000 units, three times our volume five years ago. Our Mu-X model sold the highest number of units here in the Philippines compared to any other country in the world. Our trucks hold the no. 1 position in total truck sales for 17 consecutive years; and in 2016, our total truck sales reached more than 6,000 units, more than triple our sales in the past years.”
Mr. Koso emphasized that besides providing products that “carry the promise of durability, reliability and fuel efficiency… we are committed to ensure that each customer will have a worry-free ownership by providing ready service, parts availability, technical assistance and training.”
Here are some passenger models that have rolled out of Isuzu Philippines’ plant in Laguna over the last 20 years.