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Speaking to CarsGuide at the launch of the new-generation MU-X, Isuzu has pinned some of its sales expansion hopes on fleet opportunities, including both emergency responders and as rentals.
In fact, one of the key reasons why the new MU-X has the full suite of safety innovations across the range – including auto emergency braking and a centre airbag – is to bolster its appeal to emergency services and other key fleet customers who require a five-star ANCAP safety rating.
While the MU-X hasn’t yet received the crucial ANCAP score, it has the right ingredients which the brand hopes will see the new-generation SUV re-enlisted for service as an ambulance for Queensland’s health services, and as a versatile option for police services across Australia.
“We’re already with the ambulance services and police,” explained the brand’s local marketing boss, Mike Conybeare. “There are already speed traps inside MU-Xs on the road.”
When asked whether the brand had had strong interest from other state police forces, or whether the new MU-X would be entering duty as a regional general duties vehicle, Mr Conybeare said it was too early to tell for the new model.
“We already have a strong relationship with police across the country, and we’ll be continuing those conversations; these are starting today, but for now it’s hard to say,” he said.
Mr Conybeare also noted the new vehicle should have a wider appeal to rental fleets, which have been squeezed recently due to national stock shortages courtesy of not only the ongoing pandemic conditions, but also the industry-wide semiconductor shortage.
“Safety plays a big factor in that rental market,” he explained, “but I don’t think our rental opportunity will all be low-spec models. I think there’s some demand at the higher end too.”
Noting that some higher-spending rental customers are willing to fork out more for a rental with seven seats and the kind of off-road ability which makes the MU-X equipped to take some of the share from other large rental vehicles like the Kia Carnival.
The new MU-X is at least $4000 more expensive when it comes to its before-on-roads cost (MSRP) compared to the outgoing model, although the brand says this move upmarket is justified by a much higher standard equipment offering, particularly on the safety and multimedia front.
Isuzu says as Australia is the largest export market for its D-Max and MU-X outside of the Thai market where they are built, which has led to both vehicles being uniquely specified from the factory for Australian customers.
Not only does this include the full suite of safety items not necessarily available in Thai-market models, but it also includes various augments to the vehicle for accessory fitment. Particularly around the fitment of a towbar and snorkel, which a high percentage of Australian customers use.
An expansion in sales of the MU-X has the brand hoping it can crack a permanent position in Australia’s top 10, despite fielding only two passenger cars. Its move to higher specification vehicles, and a renewed push toward city customers has the brand hoping it can not only take sales from popular rivals like Toyota’s Prado and Ford’s Everest, but also fend off new competitors in the form of GWM and LDV, which it says don’t constitute a significant threat for the time being.