Just five years ago, the Isuzu Philippines passenger-car line-up seemed rather bleak and Jurassic.
For one, the Crosswind – a vehicle with a chassis and engine as old as time itself – was surviving more on facelifts than an ageing telenovela star. Meanwhile, the first-generation D-MAX pick-up truck and its ungainly sport utility vehicle sibling, the seven-seat Alterra, were likewise long-in-the-tooth, especially in the face of more refined and more sophisticated competition.
A much-needed shot in the arm for the company came when the second-generation D-MAX was launched locally in 2013, initially with the 3.0-liter inline-four turbodiesel from the previous model, until it received the VGS or variable-geometry turbocharger engines in later models. The next year saw the launch of one of the company’s most important models: the mu-X (pronounced ‘myoo-eks’).
Essentially a D-MAX with a roof and seats where the cargo bed would be, the mu-X was not only leaps and bounds better than the Alterra, but it also became the go-to SUV for ultimate value-for-money as it undercut rivals (including its platform-sibling, the Chevrolet Trailblazer) on price and features. And when the 3.0-liter VGS engine was fitted to the mu-X, it became even better in value by finally having the gusto to back up the gadgets.
For the members of the mu-X Club of the Philippines, who call themselves ‘mu-Xxers’ (pronounced ‘mook-sers’), Isuzu’s flagship model was just what they were looking for in an SUV.
“While other seven-seat SUVs are getting smaller, the mu-X remains really big,” said club administrator Jomar Lianko. “On long-distance drives, the suspension is smooth and stable, even around the corners, while the brakes are strong. In addition, the mu-X’s entertainment system is good enough to keep the kids busy.”
“I bought the fourth mu-X brought into the country,” said club administrator Edmund Merced. “I was working on a boat at the time and my son was shopping for SUVs on my behalf. I told him to look at the mu-X and he really liked it because of the gadgets and the power-assisted features.”
From a dozen to a thousand
Club administrator Rene Macandili said the club, which is a subgroup of Team Isuzu Pilipinas or TIP (which Fast Times already featured), was formed in April 2015 during one of TIP’s eyeballs (EBs) at the Quezon Memorial Circle in Quezon City.
“When we met during that eyeball, we were 12 mu-X owners,” Merced said. “Now we have over 200 owner-members, 70 of whom are official members. On Facebook, we have over 1,000 members.”
Merced said all members have access to technical information and advice on the mu-X and can pose questions to other members about their cars. However, he said only official members – who are owner-members that have attended at least three EBs – get the bigger perks like discounts for parts and accessories, dealer discounts and roadside assistance.
120 applicants a day
Club head Edgar de Jesus said joining the mu-X Club of the Philippines is very easy.
“All you have to do is register on our Facebook page,” he said. “We also tap our contacts at Isuzu dealers to help find interested members. We even have an invitation card that we give to mu-X owners that we see.”
De Jesus said applicants have to send a photo of them standing beside their mu-X, which need not be registered to them. “We have 120 applicants a day on our Facebook page so we really have to verify through our screening process if they are mu-X owners,” he said.
Fun runs, fund-raising
Club administrator Benedict Gumpal said that aside from EBs, the club goes on several out-of-town journeys to fully exploit the mu-X’s long-distance capabilities. “We have fun rides that last only a day and caravans that are two to three days long,” he said.
In addition, Gumpal said the club facilitates outreach programs and special affairs, which includes the club’s Christmas party. He also said the group is currently conducting a fund-raising program to help rehabilitate an orphanage in Baguio City that was damaged in a fire.
“Also this year, our next caravan will be in August at Caliraya,” Gumpal said. “Right after that, we will be having our next official EB as we conduct our EBs every two months. Finally, we plan to hold at least one fun ride every quarter, where we make sure to bring along our families for the trip.”