LAS VEGAS. Dealers, fleet customers and members of the media had the opportunity to see Isuzu’s new 2008 model year N-Series during Heavy Duty Aftermarket Week here. It was a high-energy moment by any measure, signaling not only the launch of an all-new product line but also what Todd Bloom, marketing vp for General Motors Isuzu Commercial Truck, LLC, called a “turning point” for the company.

From this launch forward, Bloom noted, Isuzu intends to make the U.S. market a focus, eventually growing annual medium duty sales to 50,000 vehicles. That makes the new N-Series the point of the spear in Isuzu’s drive to be “a medium-duty commercial truck powerhouse in the U.S.”

The low-can-forward (LCF) N-Series models not only meet the 2007 EPA and California diesel emission standards, but they also feature front-to-back enhancements, including more cab room, enhanced safety and convenience, and more power. For example, in the area of driver comfort look for a larger and more spacious cab riding on an improved cab mounting designed to deliver a smoother ride. Doors swing wider and seatbacks are high and covered in a new Tricot cloth, intended to stay cooler in summer and warmer in winter, plus there are storage areas virtually everywhere—from the seatbacks to the dash and overhead. Power windows and door locks are standard equipment as are door-mounted ashtrays and cup holders in the center console and dash. Air conditioning is standard on gasoline models, optional on diesels.

The new cabs also feature a new dash and an easy-to-remove panel at the front of the cab for ready access to the wiper motor and linkage, electrical connections and air intake filters. To enhance safety and durability, Isuzu engineers also redesigned the seatbelt for easier operation, cut side windows lower to enhance visibility, mounted larger side mirrors with integrated convex sections and increased cab structural strength and corrosion resistance.

Horsepower has been increased as well-- to 205 hp at 2400 rpm for the 5.2L, overhead cam, 4HK1-TC turbocharged, intercooled diesel engine. Torque has been given a similar boost, to 441 lb.-ft. at 1850 rpm, up from 387 lb.-ft. It covers GVW ranges from 12,000 lbs. to 19,500 lbs and has a B10 durability rating of 310,000 miles. The diesel can be paired with the new Aisin A465 heavy-duty, six-speed automatic with double overdrive, or with a six-speed manual transmission. The gasoline Vortec 6.0L, V-8 engine delivers 325 hp and 360 lb.-ft. of torque, driven through the Hydra-Matic 4L80 four-speed automatic transmission.

Isuzu N-Series diesel models include the NPR, NPR HD (regular and crew cab), NQR (regular and crew cab) and NRR. The gasoline engine is available in the NPR and NPR HD models.

Customers who want the ability to mount longer and wider bodies also got their wish with the 2008 N-Series, which will include additions capable of handling bodies up to 24 feet long and a full 102 inches wide.

Financing options will be expanded, too, with the reintroduction of an Isuzu captive finance service this year, limited geographically, at least early on, probably to the Northeast.

To celebrate this landmark moment in the company’s history, Isuzu also unveiled a limited edition chassis called the Onyx, boasting a black and silver exterior in keeping with its name.

According to Isuzu, the company currently dominates the Class 3-5 LCF market, with a 41.5% share and has been the best-selling cabover brand in the U.S. since 1986. When sales in the U.S. approach the 50,000 target, Isuzu executives announced plans to build a new factory on property already set aside for the purpose near Birmingham, AL.

For now, customers can also still find some model year 2007 N-Series trucks at dealerships, according to Bloom, because the “pre-buy” was not as aggressive as anticipated for Class 3-5 vehicles. He estimated there may be four or five months worth of 2007 model year inventory on dealership lots.

Story edited on January 29, 2007 to address formatting error.