I was thinking about the demise of Isuzu the other day, and it reminded me of all the classic Joe Isuzu commercials from the late 1980s to early 1990s. Back then, Isuzu was a growing Japanese manufacturer with an identity crisis; their cars and trucks were good, but no one had ever heard of them. Enter Joe Isuzu, a fast talking pitch man (played by actor David Leisure) who could sell ice to Eskimos. Sure, he lied to the television audience, but you KNEW he was lying because the claims were so bizarre. It was funny in the same way that Jeremy Clarkson’s remarks on The Stig are funny; you know his testicles aren’t shaped liked Portugal, but the claim is so off the wall that you laugh anyway. That’s what the old Joe Isuzu commercials were like.
Isuzu pulled out of the US Market in early 2009, a victim of inconsistant product strategies and a poorly established dealer network. Their trucks were good (good enough to be rebadged and sold as Hondas and Acuras), but their cars were bland and never enjoyed the market share of rivals Toyota and Nissan. After the success they enjoyed during the Joe Isuzu years, they never again invested heavily in U.S. advertising, and no one seemed to notice when they disappeared from the American landscape.