More stories related to New York Auto ShowNEW YORK – Isuzu Motors America Inc. is getting back in the U.S. pickup business, introducing the i-280 and i-350 small trucks at the auto show here.

The auto maker follows the path taken with the Chevrolet TrailBlazer-based Ascender SUV, as the new pickups were developed jointly with partner General Motors Corp. and are aimed at drawing a small number of new buyers into the Isuzu fold.

Isuzu’s new pickups share a platform with GM’s small Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon pickups and Hummer H3 SUV and will be built alongside those vehicles in Shreveport, LA, starting this summer.

Isuzu is equipping its new trucks with GM’s 175-hp 2.8L 4-cyl. and 220-hp 3.5L 5-cyl. engines. The i-280 is an extended-cab 2-door equipped with rear-wheel drive and either a 5-speed manual or optional 4-speed automatic; the i-350 features a 4-speed automatic, 4-wheel drive and four doors as standard equipment.

The trucks should sell in the 5,000- to 10,000-unit range, with a price tag 7%-8% lower than its Chevrolet platform mate, David Baty, manager-product planning and analysis, tells Ward’s. The base Chevy starts at $15,730, theoretically setting the stage for a $14,500 base price tag on the Isuzu pickups that bow later this year.

Isuzu employs a similar pricing strategy with the Ascender, basing the vehicle at $25,595 and undercutting the $27,150 TrailBlazer. Ascender deliveries totaled 7,686 in 2004 and are tracking 52.6% better thus far in 2005.

Overall, Isuzu sales are struggling, down 34.3% through February vs. year-ago. The slide has the auto maker slashing prices via massive incentives, including $6,750 off the base Ascender. All Isuzu SUVs can be had for under $20,000 when incentives are factored in.

jstoll@primediabusiness.com