Isuzu dominates the off-road truck sector – again
We’re accustomed to Isuzu’s decades-long leadership in the Australian on-road truck market, but not so well known is its absolute dominance of the off-road sector as well.
Before the 1970s, the few 4×4 and 6×6 trucks available were ex-Army units. They were supplanted by European offerings, mainly from MAN, and locally-made RFWs, but these were large trucks.
The light-truck end of the off-road market was filled by ACCO 410 and 510 models from International Harvester.
Mitsubishi’s Canter 4×4 was the first Japanese 4×4 truck released in the Australian market, in 1989 and it quickly became popular with bushfire brigades.
Obviously, the alarm bells rang at Isuzu, which had entered the Australian market in 1972 and, by 1989, was already an established brand.
Isuzu launched its NPS competitor for the Canter in 1992, but took a few years to overtake it. That quest was helped in a major way by Mitsubishi’s decision to discontinue the low-range Canter for many months, in favour of a single-range model. By the time that weird Canter-specification decision was reversed, the Isuzu horse had bolted.
In 1995 Iveco released a limited number of Daily 4x4s in Australia, but these vehicles had short final drive gearing that made them brilliant off-road, but unsuccessful at Australian highway speeds.
In the meantime, Isuzu and Hino were marketing their mid-sized 4×4 truck models and competition In this heavier segment was also provided by models from MAN, Iveco and Mercedes-Benz.
In 2013, Isuzu’s NPS faced its biggest threat: a new-generation Iveco Daily 4×4, but this range was plagued by reliability issues and successive upgrades have failed to remedy the situation.
The next threat came from Hino in 2017, but despite having great specifications this truck was considerably heavier than the NPS and the Canter, so its applications were limited.
The upshot is that Isuzu absolutely dominates the Australian off-road truck market, as the following 2023-market graphs illustrate.