NEW YORK - AmericanMotors Inc. ( AIMI) has no plans to begin a monogarnous relationship. Once again the Japanese automaker agrees to shaie products with several partners.
Next year 6,000 new Odyssey minivans manufactured byMotor Co. Ltd. will be sold as the front-drive Oasis, Isuzu executives tell reporters prior to a road rally here. It has the same 2.2L 16-valve 4-cyl. as the Odyssey, and an electronically controlled automatic transmission. In turn, Honda gets a version of the Isuzu Trooper, which will be sold as an upscale yet-to-be-named Acura SUV by the end of this year. Honda already sells the Isuzu Rodeo as the Passport.
There are some catches. The Odyssey is built in Japan, and with the yen hovering below 90 to the U.S. dollar, the Oasis pricetag could be mighty stiff. The Odyssey goes for $23,800 and the price could jump. Plus, Isuzu marketing types are still trying to sort out buyer demographics.
The Oasis - the automaker's first entry in the minivan segment - is a hint at Isuzu's ftiture plans, says E.E Kem, Isuzu's senior vice president of marketing. "I think there is going to be a blurring of lines between the SUV and the minivan," he says. The same will be true of passenger cars and SLTVS, he adds, pointing out that focus groups thought the Oasis was a new type of SUV.
Isuzu executives, including Mr. Kem, also say they are interested in exploring other vehicle-swapping joint ventures similar to the ones with. In particular, Isuzu would like to have a car-platform-based SUV to compete with the new RAV-4. However, there are no current negotiations, Mr. Kem insists. "Product sharing works in today's climate," says William Correia, national product planning and research manager. ". . . It enhances profitability. That is our foremost concern. Profitability must be protected at all costs."
Isuzu also introduces the new Hombre compact pickup, built byCorp. in Shreveport, LA, with Isuzu styling cues. The truck, which will use body panels stamped by GM in Brazil, shares the 2.2L, 5-speed manual powertrain and running gear of the Chevrolet S-10/GMC Sonoma compact pickup. Isuzu says it will start shipping the Hombre to dealers in mid-January, and expects to sell 25,000 in 1996. GM owns 37.5% of Isuzu Motors Ltd. in Japan.
The automaker also plans to continue its 6-year-old Subaru-Isuzu Automotive Inc. (SIA) joint-venture withHeavy Industries Ltd. in Lafayette, IN. The venture produces the Rodeo, Passport and Subaru Legacy. The pickup was moved to Japan in 1993. "It is most efficient for us to stay together," says Yoshito Mochizuki, AIMI president. He says the venture, which many have speculated is shaky, will be profitable for 1995.