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Frankfurt show: Could Mazda have HiLux in its future?

Pick me up: Mazda’s BT-50 is the result of a model-sharing deal with Ford, but the next generation might have another base.

Alliance with Toyota could help Mazda to keep trucking if Ford Ranger deal ends

Mazda logo16 Sep 2015

By RON HAMMERTON in FRANKFURT

A PRODUCT and technology alliance between Toyota and Mazda might hold the key to a third-generation Mazda BT-50 when a replacement becomes due in a few years.

Mazda Motor Corporation managing executive officer for sales and marketing Masahiro Moro indicated to Australian journalists at the Frankfurt motor show that the BT-50 might be under some pressure unless a solution could be found for a replacement for the current model that is built on the Australian-developed Ford Ranger platform.

“We are working on a future program,” he said. “It is very early days. At this stage, it is not my call to discontinue BT-50 as it is critical to Australia, New Zealand and some South-East Asian countries.

“But if we follow the current path, the BT-50 will get adequate updates.”

Asked if the next BT-50 would be built on the Ford Ranger architecture, Mr Moro declined to comment.

European sales of the one-tonne truck have been axed as Mazda pursues a green agenda in that region, leaving only the Antipodes and South-East Asia as the vehicle’s prime market area.

Mr Moro said he did not know if the latest Mazda-Toyota agreement included a deal to share trucks.

“I honestly don’t know,” he said. “They do have pick-up trucks in North America and Asia, but I truly don’t know because we have not discussed.”

Mr Moro said the Mazda-Toyota agreement was a sensitive issue, and he would only say that the two companies had just established a working team to discuss and find out the potential for shared ventures.

“We don’t have a complete agenda yet,” he said. “This alliance was formed with the clear articulation of working together to develop better cars.”

Mazda Australia is just about to launch a mildly facelifted BT-50, even though the related Ford Ranger has gone through an extensive makeover masterminded by Ford’s designers and engineers in Australia.

New-generation one-tonne competitors such as the Nissan Navara, Mitsubishi Triton and – soon – Toyota HiLux are also arriving on the scene.

Despite this, BT-50’s Australian sales are up by 9.1 per cent, to 9488 units, at the end of August – well outstripping the market segment.

The question is whether Mazda management can find a way of delivering a cost-effective all-new model when the current generation needs replacing.

With Toyota and Mazda growing their technology and model-sharing arrangement that so far includes items such as Prius hybrid technology and a Mazda2 base for Scion, the Toyota HiLux looms as a potential donor vehicle.

Mazda is Australia’s biggest full-line importer, boasting a hugely popular passenger car and SUV range that includes vehicles such as the Mazda3 and CX-5.

However, its one slight weakness is light commercial vehicles, with the likes of Holden, Ford and Mitsubishi outselling Mazda this year.

Mazda has long had a LCV-sharing arrangement with former parent company Ford which once took the Mazda B-Series as the Ford Courier in Australia.

The Thai-built BT-50 arrived in its first generation in 2006. The current generation was developed in conjunction with Ford in Australia and launched in 2011.

Both vehicles at built at Rayong, Thailand. Toyota’s HiLux also is built in Thailand.

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