MAZDA’s recent partnership with Toyota could see it use the strong-selling Hilux as the starting point for its next generation BT-50 ute, instead of the Ford Ranger.
The development could end a collaboration of more than 35 years between Mazda and Ford.
While the Ford Ranger was heavily upgraded for 2015, Mazda did not give the BT-50 the same level of upgrades, arguing that low global sales volume could not justify the expense.
“We need to come up to a better solution in the future,” said Mazda Managing Executive Officer, Masahiro Moro. “If we follow the correct path, I think a BT-50 will get adequate updates.”
That may mean an alternative to the existing model’s Ford Ranger architecture, particularly given Toyota’s commercial expertise and even greater economies of scale as the world’s biggest car maker.
“We’ve just established a working team [with Toyota] to discuss an area where we can potentially work together,” Moro said.
“So we don’t have a concrete agenda yet, but this alliance was formed under the clear articulation of working together to make better cars.”
It’s clear that the BT-50 is not as good as Mazda wants it to be, in terms of both sales and its overall strategy of using SkyActiv drivetrains.
“We are working on a program, but it’s very early days,” said Moro. “The basic technology and architecture are not SkyActiv technology, so we have issues on how we’ll put our technology into BT-50.”
In August, the Ranger outsold the Hilux for the first time in its eight-year history, as stock of the Hilux dried up due to the all-new model arriving this October.
Yet while the current BT-50 sales are hardly a disgrace, it cannot hold a candle to the Hilux or Ranger, despite sharing its underpinnings with the Ford.
The BT-50 typically sells 1000 units a month in Australia, and is ahead of rivals including the much newer Nissan Navara and VW Amarok year-to-date. Yet Ranger and Hilux sold around double that in August as the first and second-best selling utes in the country.
The next BT-50 is likely due in showrooms in 2017, with the new generation Hilux that may replace its Ranger roots going on sale this October.