Mazda has confirmed that it’s next-generation BT-50 light commercial ute will be built by Isuzu and based on the next Isuzu D-Max.
Today’s announcement spells the end of a close to 30 year collaboration between Ford and Mazda, the final iteration of which is the current Ford Ranger based BT-50 ute range.
The two Japanese manufacturers believe the deal will “allow… Isuzu to enhance its product competiveness and [allow] Mazda to strengthen its product line-up and maintain own-brand market coverage”.
The arrangement will allow Mazda to sell its version of the D-Max globally, with the exception of North America.
It is not known if the next BT-50 will be a ‘badge-engineered’ D-Max or if Mazda will do its own sheet metal styling, as it has with the current BT-50. We’d expect that Mazda will want the differentiation that a restyle will offer.
If you were a cynic, you might be wondering right about now if this could possibly be a backwards step for Mazda?
The Ford Ranger is selling up a storm and in 4X4 guise it has the ‘2016 Highest Seller’ award firmly in its sites. It is in fact the first serious challenger that the Toyota HiLux has had in the last 1,000 years.
The enormous popularity of the Ranger must have a positive effect on BT-50 sales. In fact we’d confidently suggest that many buyers look past the current BT-50’s ‘unique’ styling and buy it knowing that under the skin it’s a Ranger, lusty 3.2-litre five-cylinder turbo-diesel engine and all.
In other words, the BT-50 has been selling in-spite of itself, simply because it’s based on a platform that ute buyers have respect for and want.
If the next BT-50 is going to be a D-Max under the skin, then the next-generation D-Max is either going to have to be a serious Ranger challenger, or well priced.