PORT ELIZABETH - Exactly a month after pulling the covers off its new-generation D-Max bakkie, Isuzu has confirmed that the new model will be built in South Africa as part of a planned R1.2 billion investment.

This effectively secures the future of the Port Elizabeth based plant for at least another model generation. The facility was was purchased from General Motors when the latter divested in 2018, saving around 1000 direct jobs. 

Isuzu also plans to increase its annual bakkie production to around 29 000 units a year, and although most of the units produced will be for the South African market, the company is aiming to grow its export volumes through its Sub-Saharan Africa growth strategy. Its biggest markets in Sub-Saharan Africa currently include Kenya, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mozambique, Mauritius, Senegal, Ghana and Ivory Coast. 

"The next generation bakkie will be locally engineered to meet the requirements of the South African and key Sub-Saharan Africa markets." said Isuzu SA managing director Michael Sacke. 

Bolder look, new engine

This is the D-Max bakkie’s first full redesign in eight years, and apart from its bolder styling and improved overall refinement, Isuzu has also upgraded the 3-litre turbodiesel engine. The motor now produces 140kW and 450Nm, up from the current model’s 130kW and 380Nm, and it can be paired with either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic gearbox.

Overseas markets also get a revised 1.9-litre turbodiesel option, but at this stage it’s unclear whether South Africa will receive this, or retain the current 2.5-litre unit.

The South African line-up, pricing and launch timing has yet to be announced.

Importance of APDP

“Our decision to invest in the production of the next generation bakkie in South Africa demonstrates our commitment to this market,” said Isuzu Senior Executive Yoichi Masuda.

“This is further reinforced by the fact that this operation is the bakkie and truck manufacturing and distribution operation which is 100% owned Isuzu operation outside of Japan.”

Masuda also emphasised the importance of South Africa’s Automotive Production and Development Programme in providing stability for long-term investment decisions:

“We fully support the requirements of the extended APDP and are working on various initiatives to ensure that we contribute to the achievement of the South African Automotive Master Plan aspirational targets over the coming years.”

IOL Motoring