Mazda Australia has announced there are no plans to develop a rugged four-wheel-drive SUV based on the next-generation Isuzu MU-X, despite the fact the two brands have just launched their BT-50 and D-Max co-developed utes.
According to Mazda Australia marketing director Alastair Doak, it was never part of the plan for Mazda to further investigate its tie-up with fellow Japanese company Isuzu outside of the planned twin light commercial vehicles.
"We are not taking anything from MU-X," said Mr Doak.
"The deal is for the ute, that’s where it begins and ends for us."
That doesn't mean that buyers wouldn't potentially warm to the idea of a rival to the Ford Everest, Mitsubishi Pajero Sport, Toyota Fortuner and, of course, the Isuzu MU-X. The latter brand has been tight-lipped on the development of the new ute-based SUV, but we've seen official renderings of what it is expected to look like in its second generation, and there's certainly some aesthetic appeal, too.
Plus rural dealers - who, according to Mr Doak, "rely on the BT-50 for their business" - would no doubt love an opportunity to sell a different kind of product to buyers in non-metro areas.
"BT-50 for Mazda in Australia is a critical car," said Mr Doak. "Our regional dealers rely on it for their business - there was never any thought that it wouldn’t exist - we had to collaborate for the right OEM."
Isuzu is apparently that OEM, with the two brands having worked together for the past five years on the successor to generations of Ford-based Mazda ute products. Now, with Isuzu building the BT-50, and it running an identical engine, transmission, suspension and steering calibration to its sibling model, the BT-50 arguably has the right roots to branch into different territory for the brand.
"BT-50 competes in the ute segment. There is a variety in that segment from the tradie, to others. We don’t expect to appeal to all buyers in that segment. We just need to appeal to some. The research we’ve done says it has broad appeal, and there is an emerging buyer group moving from SUVs into utes," said Mr Doak.