Struggling Japanese truckmaker Isuzu Motors said on Thursday that it expected its global vehicle sales in 2003 to fall 20% from last year to 186,000 units, Reuters reported.

On a brighter note, Isuzu, considered one of the weakest of Japan’s four major truck makers, forecast domestic sales would rise 13% to 65,000 units in 2003, Reuters added.

According to Reuters, Isuzu also announced at its New Year’s news conference that it had set up a joint venture with major shareholder General Motors to develop applications for diesel engines to be used in GM vehicles.

The venture, GMI Diesel Engineering Ltd, would begin operations in February and would be owned 60% by GM and 40% by Isuzu, Reuters said.

While Japanese truck makers suffer from record-low demand in the crowded home market, Isuzu and Nissan Diesel are also struggling under a mountain of interest-bearing debt, but Isuzu is known for its strength in diesel engine technology, seen as a key reason why GM agreed last year to provide over 60 billion yen ($US507.8 million) as part of a bail-out package, Reuters noted.