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March 11, 2003

USA: Isuzu to import Thai-built SUV in 2005 – paper

American Isuzu Motors said on Monday that US production of two of its three remaining models would cease next year and that in 2005 it would begin importing SUVs made in Thailand to help fill the gap, the Los Angeles Times reported. The LA Times noted that the Cerritos, California-based US import and distribution arm of Japan's Isuzu Motors is restructuring in an attempt to find a new place for itself in the North American market and said details of the plan would be announced April 17.

By bcusack

American Isuzu Motors said on Monday that US production of two of its three remaining models would cease next year and that in 2005 it would begin importing SUVs made in Thailand to help fill the gap, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The LA Times noted that the Cerritos, California-based US import and distribution arm of Japan’s Isuzu Motors is restructuring in an attempt to find a new place for itself in the North American market and said details of the plan would be announced April 17.

“There will continue to be an Isuzu in the US,” spokesman Charles Letzgus told the newspaper on Monday.

The LA Times noted that Isuzu helped start the SUV craze in the US when it introduced the Trooper in the early 1980s. But sales have dried up as the firm has lost marketing and product development support from its ailing Tokyo-based parent. American Isuzu’s sales fell 36% last year after a 14% decline in 2001.

The LA Times added that, as part of its cost-cutting effort, Isuzu in January sold its 49% stake in a joint-venture vehicle manufacturing plant in Lafayette, Indiana, to former partner Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd.’s Subaru passenger car unit.

Isuzu’s Rodeo and Axiom models are built at the Indiana plant and the company contracted with Subaru for continued production until the end of the 2004 model run, the LA Times said.

“The last vehicles will be built there sometime in the summer of 2004,” Letzgus told the newspaper.

The LA Times said that production will continue on Isuzu’s third US model, the Ascender SUV, which is made by GM, and is a re-badged seven-passenger GMC Envoy XL. At the New York Auto Show next month Isuzu will announce that it will begin selling the shorter, five-passenger version as well, the newspaper added.

According to the LA Times Isuzu said that, in 2005, it would begin importing a new SUV to be built at its Thailand factory but has not disclosed design and other information about the new SUV, which will be built on a mid-size pickup truck platform.

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