Isuzu D-Max to stop production for three months, Mazda BT-50 ok for now

A parts shortage due to a COVID-19 shutdown at a supplier factory in Europe will stop production of the Isuzu D-Max for up to three months. Mazda is yet to be advised of any delays. 

The waiting time for a new Isuzu D-Max ute is about to get longer, with production “suspended” for the next three months after a parts supplier was shut down in Europe due to COVID-19 – and its twin under the skin, the Mazda BT-50, is also likely to be affected.

Although the Isuzu D-Max and Mazda BT-50 utes are made on the same production line in Thailand, parts for the jointly-developed vehicles are sourced globally.

At this stage only the Isuzu D-Max is affected, while Mazda says it is on standby for any updates regarding the BT-50.

As this article was published, Isuzu had already notified its dealer network about the interruption to production, while Mazda said it is business as usual – for now – even though both vehicles use identical mechanical parts.

Production of the new Isuzu D-Max is about to hit the brakes.

A statement from Isuzu Ute Australia said: “Due to unforeseen circumstances, Isuzu regrettably advises that production of the (new) Isuzu D-Max has been temporarily put on hold. The unfortunate pause in vehicle production is related to one of our key component suppliers in Europe (producing unique components for our Australian-specification D-Max) has had to temporally close their manufacturing plant due to COVID-19. As a result we have had to suspend our D-MAX production in Thailand for up to three months, with a tentative recommencement of vehicle production of February 2021.” Isuzu said the pause in production does not affect the MU-X SUV.

A statement from Mazda Australia said: “At this stage we are still evaluating whether the Isuzu parts supply constraint will interrupt production to Mazda BT-50. However, the launch of the brand new BT-50 is of high priority for Mazda Australia and we have forward ordered supply numbers accordingly. As such, we remain confident that we will have supply for the foreseeable future and look forward to continuing our campaign to introduce the ute to Australian consumers.

A stop to production of an engine component sourced from Europe – believed to be from a supplier in Germany – will have the knock-on effect of stopping the Isuzu/Mazda assembly line in Thailand because the industry has shifted to “just-in-time” manufacturing.

Rather than carrying months of parts stock, manufacturers now have short lead times from their supply chains, to improve efficiencies. The downside: when one part runs out, the whole line stops.

The temporary shutdown comes at a critical time for both Isuzu and Mazda.

Both brands have just launched their first new-generation pick-ups in almost a decade, and were enjoying a stronger than expected sales surge.

The Isuzu D-Max ranked sixth outright – and third in the ute class – for the first time ever, in last month’s sales race. The new Mazda BT-50 has also been met with strong interest.

Even before the production shutdown, Isuzu and Mazda were struggling to keep up with demand locally, with Australian delivery delays ranging from four weeks to three months.

Delivery times for the Isuzu D-Max could now blow out to up to six months, based on current estimates provided to dealers by Isuzu Ute Australia.

The three-month factory shutdown from December through to the end of January mean customers who were due to take delivery in these months are now likely to be pushed back to February or March deliveries at the earliest.

Customers who order an Isuzu or Mazda ute today may not take delivery until June, as with brands make their way through their current backlog.

Although it does not specify which engine part is affected, an Isuzu dealer statement says “due to this interim factory closure, Isuzu is now unable to produce the 4JJ3 engine for upcoming production schedules, suspending the all-new Isuzu D-Max until further notice”.

The memo said vehicles due to arrive imminently will also be “suspended”.

“Due to the suspended production, a portion of November 2020 and December 2020 arrivals (October 2020 and November 2020 production) and all of January 2021 arrivals (December 2020 production) will be suspended,” the notice continued.

“We understand many of these cars are sold, however our expectations are that the earliest timing for the restart of vehicle production will be February 2021 (with March and April 2021 arrival).”

Isuzu Ute Australia has also written to apologise to customers already on the waiting list.

“Please accept our full apology for this unfortunate situation, as it is disappointing to us that we have let down so many of our customers that have shown great belief and confidence in our exciting new vehicle,” the letter said in part.

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