All-New 6TH Generation Isuzu KB Engineered To Meet Unique Conditions In South Africa And Sub-Saharan Africa
The all new 6th Generation Isuzu KB makes its debut into the massively competitive light commercial vehicle segment of the South African market. The all new 6th Generation Isuzu KB will spearhead General Motors South Africa’s export drive into a number of key markets in Sub-Saharan Africa. As with its predecessor, the new KB benefits from an intense local engineering and development programme conducted by GMSA engineers working closely with their counterparts at Isuzu in Japan.
“We have always worked closely with our colleagues at Isuzu to ensure that the products destined for South African customers will fully meet the demanding expectations of this market, unique in many ways from other global markets,” says Wendle Roberts, GMSA’s Vice President of Product Engineering. “Since 2005 we have been able to input specific local engineering requirements at the design stage of new products so that these could be included in the base design rather than as engineering add-ons at a later stage. The impact of this was first seen on the outgoing Isuzu KB and we have had even greater input into the basic design of the 6th generation model to accommodate South Africa’s needs,” says Roberts.
In addition to giving their input to Isuzu engineers during the design-stage, the engineering team at GMSA worked on the development of unique specifications for our market. The 2,4 litre petrol engine models are an example of this. The Isuzu model line-up for global distribution does not have petrol engine derivatives in it. While diesel power now dominates the South African market there is still a demand, particularly at the entry level of the light commercial vehicle market, for petrol powered vehicles. To satisfy this GMSA has developed the 2,4 litre Base and Fleetside models for the local market.
“The South African market also expects the availability of a locking rear differential for high ride 4X2 and 4X4 models to improve traction on loose surfaces, especially uphill sections. Here again we have been able to engineer a locally manufactured solution that meets the unique needs of our market. We also have a requirement for stronger body panels; especially in the construction of the load box and here again a local engineering solution has been provided. Local suspension development is another key engineering focus to ensure that we continue to provide the legendary ride comfort to which Isuzu owners have become accustomed without any compromise to off-road performance,” said Roberts.
Along with the need to validate the local developments to ensure that they fully comply with durability and reliability expectations there is the need to prove out the core design to ensure total compatibility with local conditions. This process started with a series of benchmarking tests of the new model with GMSA receiving the first development mule as far back as mid-2010 to get their engineering evaluation under way. This was followed by a further 34 development mules from Isuzu Japan and the source plant in Thailand. These vehicles were converted to South African specification on their arrival and immediately placed in an intensive test programme to ensure 100% compliance with South African and Sub-Saharan Africa requirements.
During the development programme this fleet of test vehicles covered 800 000 kilometres of actual driving in accelerated durability testing with more than 60% of the distance covered on rough dirt roads. The second element of this programme includes the “hill climb” durability test where GMSA engineers test cooling and other related systems in extreme temperatures and steep gradients typical of South African driving conditions. At the end of this durability testing programme the test fleet will have covered the equivalent of 2,4 million kilometres of normal driving.
In addition to the engineering test fleet in the durability programme, 37 of the first batch of vehicles built at the Struandale plant in Port Elizabeth were driven by regular GMSA employees as a test to gauge customer acceptability, reliability, validation of local specification and production processes. These vehicles will have completed a further 500 000 kilometres of actual driving equivalent to 750 000 kilometres of normal customer usage. This means that by the time the new Isuzu KB reaches the showroom floor GMSA will already have a database covering 1,3 million actual kilometres and the equivalent of 3,2 million kilometres of normal customer usage. This is a very solid base to measure and validate vehicle reliability and durability from. During this process GM test engineers and drivers will have spent more than 32 000 hours on South Africa’s roads in the new KB!
Major elements of the local engineering process are:
- An increase in the sheet metal gauge in key areas in the load box
- Rear axle with electronic locking differential system
- Clutch and driven plate
- Exhaust systems
- Air induction systems
- Engine Cooling systems
- Suspension tuning (shocks and springs)
- Styling/Accessory packages (Nudge bar considering Air bag deployment, Sports bar, canopies, etc.)
- Class leading tow bar to support 3.5 ton towing capability (3.0L models)
- Unique rear step to accommodate the locally developed tow bars providing an integrated appearance with minimal impact on rear departure angle
- Ultrasonic alarm and rear park assist
- Utility box for the Extended Cab models
- Rear sliding glass
- Fuel efficiency and CO2 reduction initiatives
All About the New Isuzu KB South Africa