Isuzu Motors Ltd. says it will end sales of light vehicles in the U.S. effective Jan. 31, 2009.

In a statement, the truck maker says the decision was made because General Motors Corp. has decided to cease production of the Ascender SUV and i-Series compact pickup.

“’It has always been our intention to remain in the U.S. market,” says Terry Maloney- president and chief operating officer of Isuzu Motors America, in a statement. “However, we were unable to secure any commercially viable replacements for these vehicles.”

Isuzu plans to honor warranties and provide support, with its parts-and-service operations remaining in business.

It also will continue selling medium-duty trucks in the U.S.

Isuzu has been a small player in the U.S. new-vehicle market, especially compared with stronger Japanese competitors such as Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co. Ltd.

However, as recently as 1997 it sold nearly 100,000 light trucks in the U.S. (97,795), Ward’s data shows.

Last year, Isuzu deliveries dwindled to just 11,301 vehicles, a 16.6% drop from 2006, with light-duty models accounting for 7,098 of the total, a 17.6% decline.

Isuzu began selling then-rare SUVs in the U.S. in 1980 via the formation of American Isuzu Motors Inc. In 1999, Isuzu sales had reached more than 100,000 units, the auto maker says.

Isuzu and GM first collaborated in 2002 on a vehicle, the Ascender.

GM builds the i-Series along with the Colorado and Canyon at its Shreveport, LA, plant.

The auto maker last fall announced it would invest $73 million in Shreveport to prepare for production of the new Hummer H3T. However, GM’s new contract with the United Auto Workers union shows no models being built at the plant other than the existing Hummer H3 and new H3T beyond 2011.