Isuzu Motors South Africa has confirmed local D-Max fans will have to wait until the second half of 2021 to purchase the new-generation version of the bakkie.

The Japanese firm’s local arm made the announcement after expanding the current D-Max range with the addition of five new automatic variants. It said "upgrades and modifications" to its production plant in Port Elizabeth were underway, including the localisation of a "diverse set" of components and systems, the local sourcing of supplier and in-house tooling, and equipment and manufacturing facility modifications.

"Our project launch team is working at an accelerated pace, and we anticipate that we will be ready to roll the first units off the production line during the second half of 2021,” said Dominic Rimmer, senior vice-president for technical operations at Isuzu Motors SA.

"Our bakkies are locally engineered to meet the requirements of local and Sub-Saharan Africa markets, thus ensuring that our products maintain high quality standards, while retaining theirreputation for reliability, capability and durability,” Rimmer added.

Revealed in Thailand in October 2019, the new D-Max – which, of course, was once known here in South Africa as the KB – is already being produced for export in that country.

In November 2019, Isuzu Motors of Japan confirmed it planned to invest R1,2-billion into its South African operations to produce the new-generation bakkie locally, saying it intended to grow annual production at its Struandale factory in Port Elizabeth to 29 000 units per annum.

As a reminder, the fresh-faced D-Max is powered by a “newly developed” version of the Japanese firm’s familiar 3,0-litre turbodiesel engine, with peak outputs hiked to 140 and 450 N.m. The next-generation Mazda BT-50 will, of course, share much with this new D-Max thanks to an agreement signed by the two companies in 2016.

Interestingly, Isuzu Motors South Africa recently announced it had started supplying D-Max knocked-down kits for assembly purposes to its manufacturing facility in Kenya.

Separately, Isuzu Motors SA said its D-Max sales volumes had increased 4,2 percent in 2019, thus growing its market share of the segment to 15,7 percent.