Isuzu is not a household name, but it did sell vehicles in the U.S. for a number of years. Originally introduced through General Motors., Isuzu vehicles later were sold through the company’s own dealer network. The last Isuzu models for the U.S. market were sold in 2008.
Isuzu traces its history to 1916, when a shipbuilding company and a gas and electric company developed plans to build automobiles. Two years later, the shipbuilding company formed a joint venture with British automaker Wolseley Motors Limited. The first Japanese-built model, the Wolseley A9, rolled out in 1922.
By 1927, the joint venture came to an end, and the Japanese automaker began building its own vehicles. Through several mergers and name changes, the Isuzu name first appeared in 1937.
Yet, it wasn’t until 1949 when the company’s name was changed to Isuzu Motors Limited. By then, Isuzu was a recognized builder of gas and diesel engines, as well as a manufacturer of cars and commercial trucks.
During the next two decades, the Japanese automotive industry experienced tremendous growth. Several manufacturers, including Toyota, Honda and Nissan, established operations in the U.S. However, in 1971, Isuzu chose to partner with General Motors for its entry into the U.S. market.
In 1972, the Chevrolet Luv compact pickup truck arrived in the U.S. This Isuzu-supplied model served as Chevrolet’s compact truck of choice until GM released its own model, the Chevy S-10, in 1982.
Isuzu Motors America Inc. was established in 1975 with the purpose of selling models directly in the U.S. For two overlapping years, beginning in 1981, the Chevrolet Luv and Isuzu P’up were both sold in the U.S. The P’up represented the first model available through Isuzu outlets.
Other Isuzu models sold in the U.S. during the 1980s included the I-Mark compact car and the Impulse, which was a small hatchback. The company’s first SUV was the Isuzu Trooper, which was sold into the early 2000s.
In the early 1990s, Isuzu imported the compact Stylus, which was sold in the U.S. as the Geo Storm. However, after the 1993 model year, Isuzu quit selling cars in the U.S., choosing to concentrate solely on SUVs, a pickup truck and a minivan.
In addition to the Trooper, Isuzu’s offerings in the 1990s included two other SUVs: the Amigo and Rodeo. The Rodeo also was sold in the U.S. as the Honda Passport. From 1996 to 1999, Isuzu offered the Oasis minivan, which was based on the first-generation Honda Odyssey. Also beginning in 1996 and continuing through 2000, Isuzu sold the Hombre, a compact pickup truck based on the S-10.
Isuzu’s final decade of marketing vehicles in the U.S. included such models as the Rodeo Sport, which replaced the Amigo in 2001. The automaker also introduced the VehiCROSS, which was a two-door compact SUV.
In 2002, Isuzu replaced the Trooper with the Isuzu Axiom, which was a midsize SUV. Isuzu offered the Axiom for just three model years.
The last two Isuzu models sold in the U.S. were supplied by GM. In 2003, the Isuzu Ascender arrived, which was a seven-passenger midsize SUV based on the Chevrolet TrailBlazer. However, for this model’s last two years, the available V8 engine and third-row seat were not offered.
In 2005, the Isuzu I-Series arrived, which was a compact pickup truck based on the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon. This model, along with the Ascender, closed out Isuzu’s 27-year run in the U.S., which coincided with GM ending production of the two vehicles.