Isuzu Motors South Africa says it has hit a 40-year manufacturing milestone in South Africa, with the very first locally built Isuzu-badged bakkie having rolled off the production line way back in 1978.
Since then, more than 600 000 examples (including the modern KB) have been produced in South Africa.
Back in 1978, the Kempston Road plant in Port Elizabeth built its very first Isuzu-badged bakkie. This initial model was launched at a price of a R3 485 if the buyer opted for the 1,6-litre petrol engine or R4 295 if they preferred the 2,0-litre diesel unit.
Of course, the story started a little earlier, in the early 1970s, with the launch of the Chevrolet LUV (light utility vehicle), which was imported from Japan. Local production of this vehicle commenced in 1972, but the Isuzu badge (as well as the KB moniker) was applied only when the LUV was facelifted in the late 1970s.
“Over the years, Isuzu vehicle assembly experienced many changes. We started production at the Kempston Road plant where we produced five generations and moved to the more modern Struandale plant when we started to build the sixth generation,” said Johan Vermeulen, Isuzu Motors SA executive for manufacturing and supply chain.
“With the introduction of modern technology, automation and lean manufacturing processes into automotive manufacturing, we were able to continuously improve efficiencies and quality of our products. Today, six generations later, our modern manufacturing processes and constant upskilling of labour, have made Isuzu bakkies one of South Africa’s favourites,” Vermeulen added.
The local arm of the Japanese automaker says its bakkie was the first in South Africa to feature rack-and-pinion steering and independent front suspension, while in the 1990s the brand was the first to introduce double-cabs locally.