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Next-gen Mazda BT-50 plans already laid

Sharing is caring: Mazda says its new-generation BT-50 workhorse will be a step forward in every aspect despite its rugged Isuzu D-Max underpinnings.

Mazda and Isuzu have set guidelines for next iteration of BT-50 ute

Mazda logo18 Nov 2016

By TIM ROBSON in LOS ANGELES

THE plans for the next generation version of Mazda’s BT-50 have been set, and the strength of the brand’s relationship with new partner Isuzu is expected to pay dividends, according to company executives.

Mazda’s current BT-50 is built alongside its mechanical twin, the Ford Ranger, in Thailand, but received only a light makeover in September 2015 ahead of an announcement later that year that the partnership between Mazda and Ford would end.

Mazda Motor Company senior managing executive officer research and development Kiyoshi Fujiwara confirmed that he had signed off on the next-generation BT-50’s basics with Isuzu in early November.

“The issue is that the sales volume of pick-ups in our markets is not huge, so we cannot develop by ourselves,” he told journalists at the Los Angeles motor show. “Therefore we also search for a partner. Fortunately, I reached Isuzu as a partner.

“Earlier this month I visited Isuzu in Hokkaido, I discussed with Isuzu guys how to develop the pick-up truck for the future, and we have already input our requirements. Now properly, Isuzu can develop our next pick-up.”

Mr Fujiwara pointed to the fact that the two companies have long shared technology via Japanese-market commercial vehicles.

“We have a long, long relationship with Isuzu through Japanese commercial trucks, so I think the good commercial relationship is already done. It is a good result,” he said.

22 center imageLeft: Mazda Motor Company senior managing executive officer research and development Kiyoshi Fujiwara.He declined to divulge specific details of the next-generation truck, which competes locally in a competitive segment dominated by the Toyota HiLux and Ranger, as well as the Mitsubishi Triton and the Holden Colorado and Isuzu D-Max that currently share underpinnings, but did say that it needed to fulfill some basic tenants.

“We want styling, of course, and good vehicle dynamics,” he said. “BT-50 is also our product and under our brand image. I cannot say which direction we are going, but this product is under our Kodo design and brand image.”

Under its current partnership, Mazda adds its own external and internal styling elements to a Ford-bodied and powered pick-up.

Isuzu’s next-generation D-Max will serve as the donor for the BT-50 range that is expected to offer 4x4 and 4x2 variants in cab-chassis, extra cab and dual-cab styles.

“I trust Isuzu as I trusted Ford in the past,” said Mr Fujiwara. “We have requested our requirements for the product, and I trust Isuzu’s capability the same as Ford.”

He also highlighted the importance of Australian input, referring to Mazda Australia managing director Martin Benders for a question about localised development.

“Mr Benders requested strongly for the BT-50 in Australia,” he said. “Australia is the biggest market, and therefore I always listen to him.

“Australia is the strongest market in the Mazda company, so I always learn a lot of things from Australia, like sales, marketing, how to establish a brand network… everything. They are the best people for Mazda.”

Mazda Motor Corporation managing executive officer and head of design Ikuo Maeda, meanwhile, said that designing the new ute will present its own challenges as the brand moves into a new era of more considered design.

“We want to make it beautiful, but we still have to have the box (on the back),’ he said. “If possible, we want to make it art. We want to try that.”

However, he wasn’t prepared to answer questions around whether the company’s latest design philosophy, ‘car as art’, would be implemented for the BT-50.

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