- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 8, 2001

LOS ANGELES After a 12-year hiatus, Joe Isuzu is back.

Many people in Isuzu's target market might not remember Joe, whose lying, smarmy mug catapulted the brand name for three years until his disappearance. But the Japanese automaker is hoping Joe helps revive sagging sales and its name recognition.

David Leisure, who plays Joe, said the character has evolved beyond the "bad car salesman."

"He is going to be more corporate," Mr. Leisure said Monday as the second in a series of new commercials aired with him reprising his role.

Even after his long hiatus, Joe is still considered one the most recognized commercial characters ever. Joe's success was so big that a similar character, also played by Mr. Leisure, was used in a campaign for Peco Energy in 1997.

In the first new Isuzu ad, which debuted a few weeks ago, a bitter, paunchy Joe throws his remote at his TV, snapping that Isuzu hasn't "done a decent commercial since they cut me loose."

In the second spot, Joe gets a call offering him his old job as a spokesman. He shapes up by jogging to the '80s hit "Eye of the Tiger," shaves his stubble and is welcomed by dealers who cheer, "He's back."

Before being approached to rechannel Joe in November, Mr. Leisure said, he had concentrated on charity work. His last major TV role was in the sitcom "Empty Nest" from 1988 to 1995.

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