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Next Mazda BT-50 to be rebadged Isuzu

Badge engineering: The next-gen D-Max, due early next decade, will form the entirety of the next Mazda BT-50, according to Isuzu.

Isuzu confirms Mazda deal as a supply-only arrangement

Isuzu logo1 May 2017

By TIM ROBSON

ISUZU Motors officials have confirmed for the first time that the next generation of its D-Max pick-up will also be supplied to fellow Japanese company Mazda as a complete replacement to the BT-50, rather than a co-developed vehicle.

Mazda confirmed in July last year that it had negotiated with Isuzu – with whom it shares a commercial vehicle partnership – to supply the next generation of its BT-50 pick-up.

The BT-50 is currently based on the Ford Ranger, but Mazda and Ford terminated the deal in 2016. Similarly, Isuzu ended its relationship with General Motors in July last year the Japanese company built and supplied pick-ups for various GM markets including the Australian-spec, Thai-built Colorado.

Speaking at the launch of the updated MU-X SUV in Queensland, president and senior executive officer of Isuzu Ute Australia’s (IUA) parent company Isuzu Motors, Yoichi Masuda, confirmed that the joint-venture agreement between the two companies did not constitute a co-development agreement for a new pick-up product.

“The joint venture between Isuzu and Mazda is simply based on supply,” he told journalists. “We will supply our own design pick-up to Mazda. That is a really as simple as the relationship is with Mazda.

“Isuzu will do everything.”

Mazda’s current BT-50 uses the chassis and powertrains from Ford’s Ranger line, with a new nose clip, tail-lights and some interior trim added. There are slight mechanical differences, which became more pronounced when Mazda’s updated version was launched in September 2015 without any of the upgrades that were added to the Ranger around the same time.

These upgrades included electric steering, enhanced electronics and revised transmissions.

Speculation was rife that Mazda and Toyota were set to enter into a partnership, before the Isuzu deal was unveiled in July 2016. This is the first time any concrete details of the deal have been revealed.

Australia is Mazda’s number-one market for the BT-50, but its sales are relatively low elsewhere.

“The issue is that the sales volume of pick-ups in our markets is not huge, so we cannot develop by ourselves,” Mazda Motor Company senior managing executive officer research and development, Kiyoshi Fujiwara, told journalists at the Los Angeles motor show in November last year. “Therefore we also search for a partner. Fortunately, I reached Isuzu as a partner.”

Mr Masuda would not be drawn on what, if any, technology would be forthcoming from Mazda for the next-generation D-Max, which is due in the early part of next decade.

Isuzu’s latest MU-X features updated cabin materials and additional noise, vibration and harshness absorption devices in response to requests from Isuzu Ute Australia, and it is expected that the next D-Max update will also receive the updates.

With the continued popularity of high-specification dual-cab pick-ups, the addition of elements of Mazda’s interior design from vehicles like the CX-9 to the next-generation D-Max would benefit both brands.

“I understand that Mazda has very sophisticated technology coming from the passenger vehicles, but that is a touchy question...” Mr Masuda said.

Isuzu has sold 2221 D-Max 4x4s to the end of March this year, while Mazda has moved 2312 4x4-spec BT-50s. In 4x2s, Isuzu’s tally of 737 falls behind the BT-50’s score of 1219.

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GoAutoNews is Australia’s number one automotive industry journal covering the latest news, future and new model releases, market trends, industry personnel movements, and international events.