The annual Nampo Harvest Day agricultural trade show dates back to 1967 when 200 grain farmers attended a harvest day celebration on a farm outside Bloemfontein.
Since the mid-1970s, the Nampo Harvest Day festival has been held on a permanent venue, known as Nampo Park, outside Bothaville in the Free State, and in 2022 this mini-Woodstock for farmers attracted close to 100 000 visitors during the trade fair week from 16-20 May.
This was the first Nampo fest since 2019, as Covid-19 put paid to events of this nature in 2020 and 2021. This year exhibitors and visitors to the show were all required to provide proof of vaccination or a recent all-clear Covid test certificate before gaining admission.
As we flew into Nampo, it was apparent why all the major bakkie purveyors in South Africa made sure they showcased their wares at this event. The car parks outside the festival grounds comprised thousands and thousands of bakkies, most of them late-model examples, and the vast majority of them painted white! Clearly, double-cab bakkies are the vehicle of choice in the grain-producing regions.
Isuzu South Africa hosted a select group of journalists, mainly specialising in commercial vehicles, and Wheels24 was fortunate to gain a seat on a 12-seater twin-prop aircraft that flew us into Nampo’s private airstrip. Isuzu was naturally displaying its new range of D-Max pick-ups in single cab and double-cab formats alongside its newly-refreshed truck ranges.
The new D-Max range is definitely a big step forward for Isuzu. Even in top-line double-cab spec, the previous generation pick-up range suffered from a rather plasticky interior. Also, the engines used were rather unrefined, noise-wise, compared to the offerings from the likes of Toyota and Ford.
I did a thorough walk around the new D-Max 3.0TD V-Cross bakkie and was impressed to see that the dashboard and door cappings on this latest model are now soft-touch.
The exterior styling, too, is well up to date with a contemporary grille styled in black, while black wheel arch surrounds give the bakkie an attractive bulked-out look from the three-quarter front and side views.
One of Isuzu’s driving instruction partners from Driving Dynamics took me for a spin around the Nampo obstacle course in a D-Max V-Cross. Even at 11:00 on a Tuesday morning, there seemed to be close to 1 000 spectators watching the action. Free Staters take their bakkie action seriously around here.
The Isuzu performed flawlessly over all the obstacles, including ramps, axle-twisters, and steep inclines. Although the 3.0-litre version of the D-Max uses a carryover engine from the previous range, I felt that it was a lot quieter than I remember from the previous-gen vehicle, thanks to the re-profiling of management systems and improved soundproofing in the new cabin.
I also briefly tried the new 1.9-litre D-Max model, which was parked in the arena, and this engine seems to be pretty refined by diesel standards. Isuzu is excited that it produces performance figures comparable to the old 2.5-litre model it replaces, while fuel consumption is much improved.
As a journalist specialising in passenger vehicles, I was interested to hear that Isuzu has a dominant market share in both the medium and heavier commercial vehicle categories. It competes with its locally-produced models. Both these truck ranges were on prominent display at Nampo, boasting numerous updates.
“We are currently on a 55% market share in the 3.5-ton to 9-ton market with our Isuzu N Series range of trucks,” said Kevin Fouche. He is a planning and product management executive at Isuzu South Africa, which manufactures its truck ranges and the Isuzu D-Max LCV at its Port Elizabeth plant.
“With our larger F Series trucks, which compete in the 9.5 to 16-ton market, we have an even greater share, at 55- to 60% of the local market.
“Obviously, the Nampo Harvest Day event is hugely important to us, and we have had excellent traffic through our stand here.”
Fouche added that, as the new seventh-generation D-Max launched only a month ago, there has been tremendous interest, particularly in the new 1.9-litre model. It boasts excellent fuel consumption figures; fuel economy is a hot topic among customers, with spiralling fuel prices being such a significant purchasing consideration at the moment. Isuzu currently holds a 17% market share with its D-Max pick-up range and plans to grow this to 25% in the next three years.
In the briefing given to journalists regarding the commercial vehicles, Isuzu executives said that alternative fuels are very much under discussion at the moment. While the new D-Max is a Euro 2 level compliant vehicle and can accept 50ppm diesel, and even 500ppm diesel, if necessary, in countries bordering South Africa, the new Isuzu trucks are now Euro 5 compliant.
Wandering around the Nampo grounds, one is struck by the enormous investment farmers make in equipment, with top-level tractors and crop-spraying vehicles costing many millions of rand. Some of these vehicles on display offer high degrees of autonomous operation, with coordinates of the desired ploughing or spraying area fed into a computer; after that, the tractor or crop-sprayer pretty much takes care of the rest of the operation.
The trade halls at Nampo offered all sorts of goods and services for sale, ranging from heavy-duty bearings to sophisticated wire kiddies toy cars to smart veld skoene. And, being a farm-fest, there were many prime livestock examples on display.
All in all, Nampo is a real eye-opener, giving you insight into how the people who put food on the tables of city-dwellers go about conducting their business and living their lives.