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Next Mazda BT-50 delayed until 2020

Soldiering on: While the next-gen BT-50 is still a few years away, Mazda will keep the current model fresh with ongoing updates.

Mazda and Isuzu tie-in means next-gen BT-50 ute won’t arrive before 2020

Mazda logo1 Aug 2016

By TIM NICHOLSON

MAZDA’S BT-50 pick-up will soldier on with ongoing updates for another few years yet with the next-generation Isuzu-built model likely to arrive in about 2020.

The two Japanese manufacturers announced in July that they had signed an agreement to collaborate on the next-generation BT-50 and that it would be based on Isuzu’s next-gen D-Max pick-up. Both models will be built in Thailand.

Mazda had been actively looking for a partner to help build the next BT-50, with rumours of a collaboration with Toyota to share its HiLux proving unfounded.

Mazda Australia marketing director Alastair Doak acknowledged that, given the recent timing of the announcement, it was unlikely that the next BT-50 had moved to the development stage, and added that a 2020 launch was likely.

“Yes, exactly it’s not in development at all really,” he told GoAuto at the media launch of the updated Mazda3 in Brisbane.

“If you were guessing I would say that (2020) is a fair guess.”

Mr Doak said that the companies were forced to make the announcement, but it was unlikely that any more information would be released until the next-gen utes are revealed.

“We are all publicly-listed companies and when you are signing a big agreement with another manufacturer or something of that nature, you have to announce it to the stock exchange. That’s why we came out and Isuzu came out and said it.

Basically we won’t be saying anything else. That’s it. We will go away and get on with our knitting and at some point you will see a new truck from both of us.”

The timing for the next BT-50 means the current model will continue on in the market against newer rivals for at least another four years.

Mr Doak said he thought it “would be a fair assumption” to suggest that Mazda will introduce running updates and changes to the current model to keep it fresh against its big-hitting rivals for the next few years.

The existing BT-50 shares its platform and much of its underpinnings with Ford’s Ranger thanks to a co-development program that was led by Ford Australia’s design and engineering team based in Melbourne.

Mazda launched the BT-50 in late-2011, just a couple of months after the Ranger, and it was given a mid-life overhaul late last year, bringing fresh front-end styling and an interior upgrade.

While Isuzu has spun off its rugged MU-X seven-seat SUV from the D-Max platform, Mr Doak said Mazda would not look at developing a Mazda-badged version of the go-anywhere wagon, adding: “It’s not a market segment we are interested in.”

GoAuto understands that the large investment and relatively low sales volumes compared with more family friendly large SUVs is part of the reason Mazda is not interested in the ute-based four-wheel-drive wagon segment.

Currently the Isuzu MU-X is the best seller among the ute-based models, ahead of the Mitsubishi Pajero Sport, Toyota Fortuner, Ford Everest and Holden’s Colorado 7 that will soon be replaced by the updated version, dubbed Trailblazer.

Holden’s GM parent company also had an agreement with Isuzu to build the next-gen Holden Colorado alongside the D-Max, following on from its existing relationship, but GM announced early last week that it had dissolved the agreement. It is unclear whether GM will develop the next Colorado on its own or seek another partner to replace Isuzu.

Mr Doak said Mazda was happy with the interest in the BT-50 from business buyers following a concerted effort from the car-maker to attract small fleet contracts with the help of dedicated fleet managers.

“It’s going ok,” he said. “Obviously we are starting from scratch in a lot of ways so the program hasn’t been around for too long but we have had some success which is nice. We are certainly having loads of conversations with people that we didn’t have before. So from that point of view we are happy with how it’s going.”

While the BT-50 trails the dominant Toyota HiLux and Ford Ranger in terms of overall sales, its year-to-date-2016 haul of 7738 is just behind the Isuzu D-Max (7962), Nissan Navara (8761) and Holden Colorado (9374), but well ahead of the Volkswagen Amarok (4869).

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