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New York show: Mazda-Toyota ute deal unlikely

Decisions, decisions: Mazda executive Masahiro Moro has poured cold water on suggestions that the next BT-50 will be based on the Toyota HiLux.

HiLux not on agenda as Mazda’s search for JV partner with next BT-50 continues

29 Mar 2016

MAZDA has reiterated its commitment to build a new-generation BT-50 utility for sale in Australia, but a rumoured spin-off of the Toyota HiLux is unlikely with the company yet to lock in a joint-venture partner.

Speaking with Australian journalists at the New York motor show last week, Mazda North American Operations president and CEO and Mazda Motor Corporation managing executive officer Masahiro Moro initially cast doubt on the future of the BT-50, saying it was not a global priority for the car-maker.

“I will refrain from making comment in the future, but if you look at Japan, China, USA and Europe, those are the top-five biggest markets for Mazda,” he said.

“We don’t have pick-up truck business (in those regions) anymore. So pick-up truck is quite a regional business. That is our understanding. So … it is not going to be a global pillar for Mazda.”

Moro-san said any development of a future pick-up would have to be in partnership with another car-maker and acknowledged that some markets are more reliant on BT-50 than others.

“I think at least Mazda is not going to 100 per cent develop the Mazda pick-up it is not a viable position for us. More countries are moving from pick-up business into passenger car business.

“It is a global picture. I know … we have existing countries who have used Mazda’s pick-up truck so we have to deal with this in a different way.”

Moro-san poured cold water on rumours that Mazda’s recent collaboration agreement with Toyota included plans to spin the next BT-50 off the popular HiLux ute.

“I have never heard about that speculation within Mazda at all,” he said.

Asked if the next joint venture would be with former partner Ford, he said: “I won’t make any comment on that as it is just speculation and we don’t have any plan for that.”

The current BT-50 was engineered and developed alongside the Ford Ranger at the Blue Oval’s design and engineering centre in Melbourne.

It is unclear whether the former partners will team up on a utility program as most of their production and development ties have been severed.

While a joint-venture partner is still unconfirmed, Mazda Australia marketing director Alastair Doak said there would definitely be a next-generation BT-50 for the Australian market, reiterating his comments from last year’s Frankfurt motor show.

22 center imageLeft: Mazda North American Operations president and CEO and Mazda Motor Corporation managing executive officer Masahiro Moro.Moro-san – who recently took on the additional responsibility of the North American market – said Mazda would not look to introduce a pick-up in the truck-loving United States, describing it as “bad business”, and added that the company is seeking to attract a different sort of buyer.

“You will not make money with pick-up truck. If you really sell a bigger truck you can make money. BT-50 level is very small and you are not able to make money,” he said.

“Mazda is targeting a totally different customer. Our customer is more brand savvy, contemporary, living in coastal areas rather than in the centre. So how people split is quite different region by region.

“Our target customer is not necessarily a pick-up driver.”

While Mazda’s collaboration agreement with Toyota may not produce a pick-up, the two Japanese car-makers have started discussions regarding potential projects, but Moro-san said it would be some time before the partnership bears fruit.

“Everybody is trying to get an answer very quickly but I think the Toyota-Mazda relationship is designed for a longer-term relationship. We are not looking for a quick hit. It takes some more time to come up with the sort of project, I think. It is still very early phase from our point of view,” he said.

Meanwhile, Australian sales of the BT-50 were down in the first two months of 2016, despite a refresh that arrived in September last year, but Mr Doak said that was down to supply issues and not a result of consumer indifference to the mid-life update.

“We have had a bit of short supply, which is a little bit frustrating,” he said. “We will hopefully catch that back up. We are happy with the reaction to BT-50, we think the changes we have made were good ones dealers are happy with it, customers are happy with it.

“Can we do more? We can always try but it is more a bit of tight supply but that will free up over coming months.”

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