The jury is still out on whether the next-generation BT-50 will share development with the Toyota HiLux or Ford Ranger, but Mazda has confirmed it will continue to offer a light commercial ute.
The updated Mazda BT-50 lineup was one of the most anticipated arrivals of the ‘year of the ute’, but its mid-cycle facelift also brought the fewest changes.
All the big players in the light commercial ute segment have been either updated or treated to a new generation, but Mazda’s ‘if it ain’t broke’ approach has raised a few questions about its long-term future.
This uncertainty has also been fuelled by the fact that the relationship between Mazda and Ford has been scaled back considerably since the joint development project that brought us the current generation of the mechanical twins in 2011.
However, speaking with CarsGuide at the Tokyo motor show this week, Mazda’s global head of operations Yuji Nakamine confirmed plans to continue production of a light commercial ute beyond this generation.“We have to do it, we will continue to do it,” he said.
Mazda is currently the second biggest brand in Australia due to the huge success of its current passenger car and small/medium SUV lineups, but Nakamine-san acknowledged there is room for improvement with the CX-9 large SUV and BT-50. “CX-9 and BT-50 is where Mazda Australia can potentially do better,” he said.
The ageing CX-9 will get a big boost when it is replaced by an all-new model early next year, but what form the next BT-50 will take in about four years is still unclear.
Given Mazda’s global focus on wrapping passenger cars, SUVs and brand icons like the MX-5 and rotary engine within its SkyActiv design and production philosophy, this leaves little room for the development of its own standalone separate-chassis light commercial model.
The two most likely options are either a continuation of the existing light commercial tieup with Ford, or leveraging Mazda’s technology sharing relationship with Toyota and basing the next BT-50 on the HiLux.
We are not giving up on the pickup truck.
However Nakamine-san explains that a decision is yet to be made on the extent of the Toyota/Mazda relationship. “We are in process of identifying those areas,” he said.
“Next year we will make an announcement regarding the scope of collaboration with Toyota,” he added.
Nakamine-san also confirmed the brand is uncertain of another Ford-based BT-50. “We are not sure, we haven’t discussed this.”
“[However] We are not giving up on the pickup truck,” he concluded.