Isuzu Motors plans to double its one-ton pickup truck output in Thailand by 2005 as it prepares to earn a profit this year after four consecutive years of losses, its top executive told Dow Jones on Wednesday.


“Strong performance of our Thai unit will help cover what we have lost before,” Isuzu Motors president Yoshinori IDA told Dow Jones Newswires on the sidelines of a company publicity event in Bangkok, adding: “Isuzu’s consolidated net profit this fiscal year (to the end of March 2004) will be around 30 billion yen.”


Ida told Dow Jones Isuzu plans to increase its one-ton pickup truck output in Thailand to 250,000 units by 2005, up from around 130,000 expected this year, and 95,000 in 2002.


The news agency noted that Thailand became Isuzu’s production base for its light trucks when the company started producing its latest one-ton pickup truck model, the D-Max, last year.


Dow Jones said D-Max trucks now dominate Thailand’s fast-growing pickup truck market with a 36.4% market share in June, narrowly trailed by Toyota with a 36% share.


Encouraged by the success in Thailand, Isuzu has begun exporting the D-Max truck to countries like Israel and is considering other markets like Greece and England, Panatda Chennavasin, a director at Tri Petch Isuzu Sales Co., Ltd. which markets D-Max trucks in Thailand and overseas, told Dow Jones.


Thailand can absorb about 100,000 such trucks a year, the news agency noted.


“We have started exporting Isuzu D-Max trucks late last year. By that time, they were shipped to Australia only. But we have just embarked on a more aggressive export strategy recently,” Chennavasin told Dow Jones.


The Isuzu trucks are marketed in Australia as the Holden Rodeo line and offer the choice of 2.4-litre four-cylinder and 3.5-litre V6 petrol engines and a three-litre four cylinder turbodiesel, along with manual or automatic transmission, two- or four-wheel drive and two- or four-door cabs, according to Holden’s website.


Chennavasin told Dow Jones the exported trucks are priced roughly the same as those sold domestically – D-Max trucks cost between THB482,000 and THB663,000 each, depending on engines and accessories.


The exported D-Max trucks are made at General Motors‘ plant in Thailand in which the US-based vehicle maker owns a 12% stake in Isuzu Motors Ltd, Dow Jones said.


“Meanwhile, we will also increase our output in China which would help stimulate growth,” Ida told Dow Jones without elaborating.


The news agency noted that, in January, General Motors said it was in talks with Isuzu, and Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp. to establish a 10-ton truck joint venture in China.


Japan’s Nihon Keizai Shimbun reported that the partners plan to produce 10,000 10-ton trucks annually at the joint venture from next year and then increase the annual output to between 20,000 and 30,000 trucks in 2005, Dow Jones recalled.


The news agency said Isuzu, which is stepping up efforts to restructure under the guidance of General Motors, has been mired in the red for the past four years – the company posted a group net loss of Y144.3 billion in the year ended March 31 2003, compared with the previous year’s loss of Y43.0 billion.