Fleet preparation centre takes centre stage in Isuzu’s D-Max growth plans, says Dan Gilkes.
Anyone who gets the opportunity to try the Isuzu D-Max XTR featured in this issue, or even the regular range-topping Blade model, cannot fail to see the depth of engineering and design that has gone into the truck’s conversion. That work has not been carried out by the manufacturer at the factory, however. Nor has it been subbed-out to a specialist converter on arrival in the UK.
Both trucks, along with a host of tailored fleet specials, have instead been engineered and assembled at the IM Group’s import centre in Sheerness, Kent, where the company has recently opened a fleet-specific preparation workshop. IM Group is Isuzu’s importer in the UK, but the company goes far further than simply receiving vehicles from the nearby docks and delivering them to waiting dealers.
The import centre is in fact a VCA second stage-accredited manufacturer, capable of carrying out a wide range of conversion tasks, to tailor the D-Max range to individual fleet customer needs. This means that the company can provide fully Type Approved vehicles, direct to dealers or to customer premises, registered and ready to work.
While the XTR and Blade will no doubt grab the headlines, as the most visible sign of the conversion work available, the fleet preparation centre is keen to introduce a wider range of fleet buyers to the potential service on offer.
“It’s about reacting to customer demands and offering something that our competitors can’t,” says Dean Faulkner, general manager of logistics operations.
That could be anything, from fitting towbars and additional lighting, to complete Chapter 8 graphics, heavy-duty suspension and the installation of individually designed racking.
“If it’s not a component that we currently offer, we will investigate the product and get it approved,” says Faulkner.
“Every component that we put on here has Isuzu approval, so it is covered by our warranty.”
IM Group is currently investing £1.7m in the site, installing a dedicated paint shop and further workshop facilities. The centre currently employs 100 people, of which 60 are trained technicians.
Isuzu’s UK managing director William Brown has stated recently that he wants to double the firm’s D-Max sales by 2025, from the current 5,000 vehicles a year to around 10,000. While the company is aiming to satisfy the need for higher trim level trucks, with the likes of Blade and XTR, the sustainable growth will come from satisfying fleet buyers, such as the RAC and energy provider SSE.
In 2017, fleet sales amounted to just over 400 trucks for Isuzu, rising to 650 in 2018. Of the 5,000 D-Max sales this year, around 1,000 will have had some sort of work done by the preparation centre and that looks set to grow.
“The only way that we can reach 10,000 vehicles by 2025 is by being different to our competitors,” says
Neil Scott, Isuzu’s national fleet sales manager.
His biggest job now is making fleet buyers aware of the service on offer. Many companies take their new trucks from the local dealer and then either get that dealer outlet to fit additional components, or send the vehicle to a third-party converter. What buyers often don’t realise is that the work could potentially have already been done at the preparation centre, the vehicle type approved and registered, before being delivered ready for work.
“Isuzu is completely focused on commercial vehicles,” says Faulkner.
“There are components that we can’t do and we will say that and customers respect the honesty. But we will get involved with the converter and take the warranty on. It is our product and our name on the vehicle. We are really keen to build the business.”