Finnish customers have come to believe that the quality of Thai-made pickup trucks are “almost the same” as those vehicles manufactured in Japan, according to Timo Vaaranen, chief executive of Isuzu Motor Finland.
“Comments we have so far received are very positive. One point that helps us about Thai quality is that we can say Ford, Mazda, Mitsubishi and Toyota all make their pickups in Thailand as well,” noted Vaaranen, whose firm became the authorised distributor of Isuzu pickup trucks in Finland and the three Baltic countries in early 2007.
“We have not heard of any specific problems from other [pickup makers who ship their vehicles from Thailand]. I think Finns think that at least Thai quality is almost the same as Japan’s,” he said.
Isuzu Motor Finland (IMF) has helped Isuzu re-enter the Finnish market after a decade of being absent, with marketing and production support from the Japanese firm’s Thai subsidiary, Tri Operations (Thailand). The IMF executive was speaking at a news conference held for visiting Thai journalists who had recently travelled to Helsinki to tour the firm’s showroom and service centre.
Speaking at the same event, Hiroshi Nakagawa, president of Tri Petch Isuzu Sales and director of Isuzu Operations (Thailand), said Isuzu had exported pickups made in its Thai plant to more than 100 countries, and the reputation of Thai-made pickups had been enhanced throughout the world, even among Isuzu’s competitors.
“Also, I heard from Toyota people who mentioned that their customers living in South America want the products made in Thailand because the quality level is the highest in the world. This, even though Toyota has factories in South America.
“I’m very proud. I’m happy to hear this comment came from Toyota people,” Nakagawa said.
IMF sells three Thai-made models of Isuzu pickup trucks in Finland and the three Baltic states – Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania -the extended cab (known in Thailand as Space Cab), two-seat double-cab and five-seat double-cab. All of them are equipped with diesel engines. The prices of these pickup trucks range from ค30,000 Euro to ค47,000 (Bt1.3 million to Bt2 million). Euro.
Vaaranen said IMF decided to become the distributor of Isuzu pickups because the brand was well established in Finland, where it sold a passenger car known as Bellett nearly 50 years ago.
Isuzu also has superior product line-ups, Vaaranen added, such as a 3.0-litre automatic-transmission model, which only few competitors offer. Other reasons for becoming the distributor include its high-quality products, along with its attractive factory and sales operations.
IMF is part of Simetron Group, which imports and sells Isuzu, Suzuki, Hyundai, Renault, and Dacia passenger and commercial vehicles in Finland and the Baltic states. Simetron Group is a subsidiary of Bassadone Automotive.
Vaaranen said Volkswagen, which introduced its first pickup truck, the Amarok, in European markets a few months ago, was expected to become a fierce competitor thank to Volkswagen’s strong commercial-vehicle networks throughout the continent. Priced about ค4,000 Euros higher than Isuzu D-Max pickups, the Argentina-made Amarok comes with only a four-door model.
“Volkswagen is one of the biggest commercial-vehicle sellers in Finland. It has very good connections with corporate customers, and each of them may already have five to 10 VW vans. So if they want to buy a pickup, it is easier for them to contact Volkswagen. Meanwhile Isuzu has only pickup trucks,” he said.
About 70 per cent of buyers of Isuzu pickups in Finland are corporate customers – the largest group being construction companies. Most pickups are used as off-road vehicles for special purposes, such as road construction, forestry operations, fire-fighting, towing, estate maintenance and snow clearance.
This year, IMF expects to sell 300 Isuzu pickup trucks in Finland, more than 100 units in Estonia, about 50-60 units in Lithuania, and about 20 units in Latvia. In the pickup segment, Isuzu is only second to Toyota in Finland and Estonia, and is No 3 in Latvia and Lithuania, following Mitsubishi and Ford.