Monday, March 06, 2006

How Badge Engineering Should Work - The New Isuzu Gala

Unlike the blatantly-ripped off i280, i350, and Ascender, Isuzu's newest piece of badge-engineering technology not only looks good, but is quite impressive with it's physical design. And, it will never make it to North American shores.

Enter the new Isuzu Gala, unveiled at the beginning of the year. Having merged it's bus operations with those of Hino in 2004 (the new J-Bus consortium) in dire economic times, the new Gala is literally a re-badged twin of the new Hino Selega.

But that's far from a bad thing. The new Gala abandons the boxy and disproportionate look of traditional Japanese highway coaches, and emulates instead European coaches, particuarly those of Setra.

The front fascia is aggressive, featuring raked front glass, and and an upward-moving side greenhouse. Headlamps are of a HID design, and rear lamps feature individual lenses in a stylized housing.

The dramatically modern styling doesn't stop inside, either. Passengers are seated within a smooth, flowing interior, surrounded by panoramic glass, and accentuated by colored LED mood lighting. Even the operator is given an ergonomic and enclosed interior, shown below.

And, in a move uncommon to North American coaches, the Gala features safety devices typical of automobiles. Not only is the operator provided with an airbag, but passenger seating is equipped with available 3-point seatbelts - something not found on your typical MCI coach.

Under the skin, the Gala rides on an electronically-controlled air suspension, with independant front arms, and a semi-independant trailing rear suspension. Power comes from a range of Hino's turbocharged inline-six cylinder motors, ranging from 12.9 to 13 L, and providing a maximum output of 450 horsepower. Shifts are controlled by a 6-speed transmission, which appears to be a clutchless-manual design.

So, how exactly does a re-badged twin benefit Isuzu? Simple. Not only does the new Gala fill a hole in their bus line-up, but it's also one of the most technologically advanced and stylish coaches in the Japanese market, let alone anywhere. The fact that such a coach can only be attained from either of the two companies is sure to benefit sales for either brand, and may draw more attention into Isuzu's Japanese showrooms - something that's always needed.

For more information, visit either Isuzu's webpage on the Gala, or Hino's on the Selega.


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