Isuzu have had limited presence in the UK, one the main reasons is that General Motors have a controlling interest in the brand, as a result many of their cars since the 70’s have been based on current GM designs such as the Kadett/Chevette. Some markets sporadically imported Isuzu passenger cars and there was no reason to suggest that Isuzu sales may have reduced the number of Opel or Vauxhall sales in the UK, so a corporate decision was made not to import the brand into the UK. This policy was reconsidered when the Piazza sports car, with no European GM equivalent, was imported to the UK in 1985. There could be some argument that the car might have been seen as a GM replacement for the 10 year old Manta, but sales of the car were very low. The car itself had been designed by Italian car stylists Giugiaro in the late 70’s and had been in production since 1979. Other models, like the Gemini were expected in the UK by the motoring press but that model never appeared on UK shores, despite some European markets importing the car. The relatively poor dynamics of the Piazza (the suspension and handling was revamped in 1987 by Lotus) didn’t help the reputation of the Piazza, despite its unique and attractive styling. The last model was imported in 1990, and Isuzu then concentrated on the 4WD market for UK sales. The majority of Isuzu cars are represented by Trooper and Rodeo 4WD models in the UK, with a handful of Piazza survivors and more recently several privately imported Belletts and 117 coupes.
A relative unknown in the UK, although in recent years importation of their trucks and vans have given the brand some recognition on the roads. Hino were high up in the expectations of UK imports in the mid 60’s their cars, due to the elegant Contessa range with its Renault derived rear mounted engines in a Chevrolet Corvair influenced styled body. Exports were received in Australia, Switzerland and the Netherlands, with assembly in New Zealand and Israel. There was also some preparation to sell the car in the States, as two race Contessa’s were prepared by the BRE Racing team. However a speedy Toyota takeover in 1966 meant that the brands identity as a car maker was over. Final cars made up from stock bodies and Toyota parts continued until 1969. The Hino factory became the assembly plant for Toyota commercial vehicles, which has paved the path for Hino badged trucks and coaches. It’s highly unlikely that Toyota will relaunch the brand for passenger cars. There are several examples of Hino cars that have been privately imported into the UK.
As mentioned in the main Datsun section, Prince (or PMC) had an active role Nissan sportier products in the late 60’s and early 70’s and still has an influence on the company today. They were absorbed by Nissan in 1966, but the legacy of the company remained in the form of the Prince Skyline and Gloria (Cedric) models, which later became part of the Datsun line up and some of the Prince engine designs survived well into the 70’s. Several light commercial vehicles have roots within Prince too. As well as the development work for the Datsun 100A, the companies first FWD product, their design studio and influenced was still seen into the 80’s and 90’s with the Laurel, Skyline and Cherry models – all 3 have styling traits that can be attributed to Prince designers. Prince badged cars were never officially imported into the UK, the company had already been taken over by Datsun when the first UK bound cars arrived, but several models including early Skylines, the R380 race car and the Imperial transport for Japanese royalty, the Nissan Prince Royal had been reviewed and accessed by UK journalists in the 60’s. Despite the increasing interest of Datsun cars, its thought that there are very few if any Prince badged cars in the UK.
Infinity are a branch company from Nissan. Working in the same fashion as Lexus and Honda’s Acrua, Nissan launched series of larger luxurious models initially for the American market in 1989. Like Lexus, the cars were aimed at the executive market. The cars themselves were based on Nissan underpinnings sharing major components with the Nissan President, the Leopard, Laurel and Skyline models. The brand achieved reasonable success in the United States. The brand was tentatively launched in the UK in 2008 (as part of a European launch) with series of coupes, open top roadsters and 4WD cars but at the time of writing, still remain a rare sight on the roads.
Unlike Infinity, Lexus chose to launch the brand in both the States and Europe in 1989. The parent company is Toyota and share many components with their cheaper but equally as well built Toyota cousins. The LS400 was instantly recognised for its abilities; quietness, extensive equipment, ergonomic interior, engine performance and build quality. These traits would be the attributes that would remain in the heart of subsequent models, helped further by recent hybrid technology which helped the brand to become a respected if slightly anonymous brand in the UK.
For brief period in the late 80’s and early 90’s, Mazda sold the Xedos 6 and Xedos 9 executive cars (pronounced zeedos) in the UK. Both were highly appointed BMW competitors (3 series and 5 series respectively) and offered a similar experience. The name was not enough, despite the outstanding quality and abilities and both cars were phased out by the end of the 2000’s. The Eunos brand, like the Xedos were designated for upscale models, but Mazda never officially imported as a brand into the UK. What makes the Eunos name more familiar in the UK are the scores of JDM sourced Mazda MX5’s badged as the Eunos. With low depreciation, the MX5 maintained healthy sales on the secondhand market so several thousand Japanese Eunos imports were brought into the UK, to appease demand for the cars at a slightly lower price. The cars shared most components and to the average eye appeared identical, but usually had specific to Japan equipment such as electric windows and air conditioning but lacked rear fog lights and sported JDM style number plate apertures. Good original UK spec MX5’s are marginally priced higher than JDM Eunos models, but as the car is now in the classic car market, the condition of the car is more important than its importation date.
Similarly to Lexus and Infinity, the Acura brand was launched primarily to American customers in 1986, as an upmarket brand made by Honda. The majority of models were simply rebadged Honda’s, but as Honda has such a strong identity and reputation in the states this was not necessarily a negative aspect. Honda reduced its plan to make the brand more widespread for the rest of the world (including Japan) due to global recession but its possible that the brand will arrive in Europe before the end of this decade.
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