Regional vice president of Isuzu aims to build on the strong momentum his automotive brand has built up over recent years.
By Ghaith Madadha
Isuzu Motors is one of the world’s oldest automotive brands and a leading light and medium duty truck and diesel engine maker.
With deep roots and enduringly long relationships with its regional distributor network, Isuzu recently restructured its operations in Jordan, appointing Qudra Automotive as a new distributor two years ago. Since then, it has more than doubled its local market share to approximately 16 percent.
Isuzu Motors International Vice President, Waleed Noubani, discussed the brand’s heritage, product portfolio, and directions for the future in a wide-ranging interview at last month’s Tokyo Motor Show.
Noubani was particularly optimistic about Isuzu’s position and potential for growth in the region and Jordan in the near future, and related Isuzu’s first steps for introducing more environmentally-friendly, compressed natural gas powered trucks to certain markets in the region.
How has Isuzu been performing in the Middle East in general, and Jordan in particular, in terms of sales, market share and growth?
On a regional level we are market leaders in the commercial industry. The biggest market in the region is Saudi Arabia. Our market share there is over 60 percent. In neighboring countries, we’re always either number one or two in terms of market share. In Jordan, we had some difficulties in the past five years. However we restructured our distributor two years ago and assigned Qudra Automotive, owned by the Alayyan family, as the sole distributor in Jordan. Before we assigned the new distributor, our market share was 8 percent of commercial vehicles in Jordan. Today, I’m proud to say that with the help of our local dealer, we have doubled our market share in under two years. Our target is to be number one. Now we are between second and third in market share but we have an action plan with our local dealer. We support them very much and they’re very active in the market. Hopefully by the end of 2018, or early 2019, we will take a leading position in Jordan.
How does Isuzu’s Middle East market share compare on a global level, and what impact has there been from recent political and economic crises, such as what has been going on in Syria, Yemen and Qatar?
On a global level, the Middle East represents about 17 percent of Isuzu’s business. Regarding the geopolitical situation and how we see things going forward, we see some positive signs coming out of Syria and are hopeful that within the next 12 months the conflict will come to a resolution. There’s a lot of business in that region. Syria is a big country, and needs huge infrastructure investments, so we see a lot of growth coming our way. We’re very happy that the Jordanian border is open with Iraq. We are very confident that this will help the Jordanian economy, and that next year will be much better.
What does the future hold for Isuzu? How will the business grow and what new expansion plans are there?
One of the things distinguishing us from competitors is the range of models that we bring into the region. We bring over 70 different models, which competitors are not even close to. We have a huge model range for each segment. We believe this gives us an edge. Competition is fierce nowadays, so we are keeping up with the latest technologies. But we don’t bring all new technologies we have in Japan to our markets in the region for different reasons. Maybe the demand is not there for that product, so we try to create a product catering specifically to our regional needs.
Are there new products coming in terms of trucks and commercial vehicles?
Yes we are introducing new products to the region. One of them is compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles. We have a lot of products. But unfortunately, infrastructure in the Middle East does not allow a few of our products to be introduced. For example, we’re introducing CNG, but you need to have gas in fuel stations. Not every country has that. The UAE is the leader in the CNG infrastructure. Now there’s a law in the UAE, for example, which states that 10 percent of all government vehicles have to go green. CNG emits much less carbon dioxide and pollutants in the air than diesel or petrol. So, we’re going to start introducing this vehicle in the UAE, because the infrastructure is there.
Will Isuzu go back to making SUVs, or possibly passenger cars?
Isuzu already introduced the MU-X SUV in Asian and GCC markets and will be introducing it in the Levant in the near future. Regarding passenger cars, we will not go back to it at this point, since we rather focus our efforts on commercial vehicles.
What are Isuzu’s plans with regards to new technologies in terms of efficiency, alternative fuels, hybrid technology and electrification?
Our R&D is always busy developing new technologies in terms of cleaner diesel engines. We’ve also developed hybrid trucks in our local market in Japan. However we will not introduce them to this region yet, due to high battery replacement costs. Commercial vehicles will need more time than passenger cars in terms of electrification, due to the size and power these batteries would need to haul over 10-tons, versus few tons for passenger cars. Furthermore, we developed alternative technology like compressed natural gas trucks, which we will launch in this region in the UAE market in the second half of 2018. We are also working on electrification and our prototype truck will be introduced at the Tokyo Motor Show this year.