Isuzu gears up to break Toyota Innova's large MPV monopoly

Written by Roudra Bhattacharya | Updated: Aug 29 2014, 14:11pm hrs
ToyotaToyota Innova's almost decade-long monopoly of India?s premium MPV segment could finally see a serious challenger.
Toyota Innovas almost decade-long monopoly of Indias premium MPV segment could finally see a serious challenger. Isuzu Motors India, another Japanese automaker that recently started domestic operations, is developing a new large MPV, called the RU30, with India as the lead market. The seven-seater RU30 will be launched in the last quarter of FY17.

Industry sources told FE that Isuzu has set an ambitious volume target of up to 100,000 units for the RU30 (inclusive of exports). In comparison, the Innova sold about 55,000 units in FY14 and 77,000 units in FY13, and currently does just over 5,000 units a month.

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Isuzu has sensed a major empty space in the Indian large MPV segment where Toyota's Innova has been the only major option for many years. As a late entrant, it feels it can make its mark there. While the company is developing the MPV in Japan, India is the main target of the product and it will be exported from here overseas. The prototype of the RU30 will be ready as soon as January next year, a source close to the development said.

Responding to an emailed questionnaire, Takashi Kikuchi, president & MD, Isuzu Motors India, said, Currently, Isuzu has two products for the Indian market the MU7 in the SUV category and the DMAX in the pickup segment. We have not yet finalised our detailed future product plan. Isuzu is targeting a localisation of about 80% in next 2 years.

Isuzu, which started domestic sales just last year, currently uses Hindustan Motors plant near Chennai for assembly of its two products the DMAX pickup and the MU7 SUV. However, the new RU30 MPV will likely be made at the company's new production facility at Sri City, Andhra Pradesh, which will start operations in 2016. Isuzu is investing Rs 3,000 crore in the facility that will have an installed capacity of up to 1.2 lakh units.

For Isuzu, well-known as a diesel engine expert, India is not a new market. Its diesel engines powered the erstwhile Hindustan Motors' Ambassador, while a global partnership with General Motors meant that another of its products, the Panther MPV, is sold as a Chevrolet Tavera in India today. Moreover, Isuzu Motors, Japan, also has a 15% stake in SML Isuzu, a domestic commercial vehicle maker.

Incidentally, Isuzu's platform strategy for the RU30 will be very similar to Toyota's. Much like how the Toyota Innova shares its underpinnings with the Fortuner and the Hi-Lux pickup to gain economy of scale and keep development costs low, Isuzu's RU30 will share the platform with the DMAX and MU7. Though Isuzu is new to India, Isuzu and Toyota are rivals in many key markets like Thailand and China.