Business profile: CAL Isuzu

By: Claire Smith, Photography by: Claire Smith

Business profile: CAL Isuzu Business profile: CAL Isuzu
Business profile: CAL Isuzu Business profile: CAL Isuzu
Business profile: CAL Isuzu Business profile: CAL Isuzu
Business profile: CAL Isuzu Business profile: CAL Isuzu
Business profile: CAL Isuzu Business profile: CAL Isuzu
Business profile: CAL Isuzu Business profile: CAL Isuzu
Business profile: CAL Isuzu Business profile: CAL Isuzu
Business profile: CAL Isuzu Business profile: CAL Isuzu

DOW caught up with CAL Isuzu's co-founder and CEO Ashok Parbhu who shares some secrets to the success of the business

You’ve probably noticed the recent issues of Deals on Wheels have become bigger and better. In fact, we’re now New Zealand’s biggest industry magazine, and it’s been great to see many of our early advertisers grow with us.

One of those is CAL Isuzu, who has been with the magazine since its earliest days. From their humble ‘backyard’ beginnings in the 1980s, today CAL Isuzu has grown to become one of the biggest truck retailers, if not the biggest, in the country.

Speaking of how the business has grown successfully, Ashok says, "It’s all about those long-term relationships with customers, staff, and suppliers. Our people are all incredibly proud of our brand. We love trucks, and we love coming to work. And that’s integral to the success of any business."

Without a doubt, it also helps that the foundation of CAL Isuzu was formed through a bold vision and determined passion. Ashok’s older brother Raman started the business in the early 1980s with a dream of owning a premier truck dealership one day. 


Commercial Autos Limited quickly earned a reputation for buying and selling quality used Japanese trucks. By the mid ’90s, Ashok joined the business, bringing with him a wealth of experience in accounting and commercial law. Soon after, the brothers moved their business from the backyard of the family property to new premises on SH1 in Te Rapa.

Sadly, the Parbhu family were dealt a tragic blow when Raman suddenly passed away in 1997. Ashok continued to steer the business under Raman’s original vision and has taken it from strength to strength.

With continued growth and expansion throughout the early 2000s, Ashok and his team made a bold move in 2012 and bought out TCL Isuzu in Auckland and Tauranga. "It was definitely a big gamble. Let’s just say that the bank told me not to do it!" says Ashok of the acquisition. "TCL was three times the size, and of course, it’s supposed to be the big guys that buy out the little guys. But we went against the grain."

Clearly, the bank’s advice was wrong, as the risk paid off and propelled the business into its premium position as the retail trucking giant of New Zealand. "This business has been built on risk-taking. Of course, it was a hard decision at the time. So it’s good to be in a position where we can look back and say ‘yes, the risk paid off, and we’re now in a very safe position’," Ashok says.

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Today, CAL Isuzu holds around 60 percent of the Isuzu market share in New Zealand and around 15 percent of the total truck business in the country. "Our success didn’t happen overnight. It’s all about design and evolution. The success of today was driven by decisions made years ago.

"In today’s marketplace, you can’t follow, you have to lead. You have to take a certain amount of risk and then back yourself 110 percent," Ashok says 

In September this year, the business grew again with the opening of a service centre in Highbrook, Auckland. The new workshop will help ease the load of the existing East Tamaki workshop, which also doubled its footprint in 2016. CAL Isuzu also has dealerships in Auckland, Hamilton, and Tauranga with authorised service centres in Penrose, Manukau, North Shore, Warkworth, and Whangarei.

Ashok says the business is constantly evolving through phases of building then growing. "Right now, we’re building for the next phase," he says. "We’re a busy, dynamic, and fast-growing business. We’ve built good foundations and have a lot of organic growth happening now.

"Isuzu is a proven and reliable product. That’s not to say our competitors don’t have good products, but this one has durability and reliability. It’s very well received in the marketplace, which means when it comes to resale, it holds it price well. So you could say it’s good at both the front end and the back end."

Another big benefit to CAL Isuzu’s customers is its in-house manufacturing plant. The new plant was built at the company’s Hamilton location in 2014 and is already working at capacity.

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From design through to painting, fabrication, and certification, the manufacturing arm allows the business to provide turnkey solutions for its customers. And because the team of tradesmen and certified welders have more than 300 years’ combined experience, clients know they’ll get the highest standard product.

CAL Isuzu also now offers complete bus chassis options. Based on the Isuzu LT chassis, these feature full air suspension, automated six-speed transmission, and a high-performance six-cylinder 240HP DIN Euro 5 engine.

But, of course, the road to success is always paved with challenges. "We’ve had to navigate our way through the GFC, the rapidly changing technology landscape, even the housing market has an impact on business."

But Ashok explains that one of the biggest challenges for the year ahead is acquiring the right people to keep the business growing.

"There just aren’t enough people in the trade at the moment," Ashok says. "And our suppliers are in the same position, and that’s a problem because it has a domino effect."

Ashok says the business is in discussions with training providers to create an in-house training programme. "We want to provide new staff with a career path that can take them through the multi-facets of the business, from apprentice mechanics right through to management," he says.

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"We want CAL people that are trained specifically for our business, whether they’re young school leavers or those with many years of experience behind them." 

With 2017 upon us, Ashok says he expects another busy year ahead. "Like most businesses these days, we’re always well ahead of ourselves. We’re constantly looking at the changing business landscape and asking ourselves what we need to do differently, where do we want to be, and how can we get there as fast as possible." 

If their past track record is anything to go by, we’re pretty sure the future of CAL Isuzu is set to be an exciting one, and one that Deals on Wheels is proud to be a part of. Watch this space.  

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