The next-generation Mazda BT-50 ute will continue to mimic the softer styling of the brand’s passenger car range - even if the design-led approach comes at the cost of greater sales.
Despite Australia’s standing as one of Mazda’s most successful markets, the Japanese company will not cave into pressure to create a ‘tough truck’ look for the new BT-50 which is currently being co-developed with Isuzu.
Mazda used the 2017 Tokyo Motor Show to preview the next stage of its current Kodo design language revealing two concepts using the styling - the Vision Coupe and Kai hatch.
The new Kodo style moves away from the animal musculature-inspired flowing creases of current Kodo-design vehicles, and instead is built of simpler, softer forms inspired by traditional Japanese aesthetic ideals.
Ikuo Maeda, Mazda’s head of design and brand, was responsible for overseeing the creation of the new Kodo language and while he admits it will be a “challenge” to adapt it to a ute his team won’t create a stand-alone look for use on the next BT-50.
“We have to focus on creating a beautiful form but adding a tougher element to it to make it more manly,” he said.
Kiyoshi Fujiwara, senior managing executive officer for Mazda, went a step further and said it would be a mistake for the brand to alter its styling to chase sales.
“Even in BT-50 or pick-up truck we align with Mazda DNA,” Fujiwara said.
He added: “Of course we know if we do that we can get more money but we have to keep the Mazda brand, that’s the key.”
Fujiwara acknowledged Australia’s preference for tough-truck styling as seen on the Ford Ranger and Holden Colorado, but maintains that Mazda’s more approachable SUV-inspired look (the current BT-50 is a member of Mazda's previous Nagare styling direction) is the correct path for the brand.
“Seven or eight years ago we already conducted these kind of focus group interviews just before we designed the current BT-50,” he said. “Ford brand has trucks, Mazda brand has a completely different kind of brand image. We decided we are going to this one [SUV-style] and Ford is going to this one [American pick-up look].”
Mazda will break its long-running ute tie-up with For for the next-generation BT-50, instead turning to Isuzu as a development partner for the new ute which is currently in development.
Hiroyuki Matsumoto, general manager of vehicle development for Mazda, said the company won’t have a significant say in the base-engineering of the new ute, but will still be able to inject a more identifiable Mazda flavour.
The overall engineering package will be handled by Isuzu, but some steering and suspension setting will be tuned to Mazda’s guidelines.
“We will ask Isuzu to incorporate Mazda’s taste and philosophy, so along those lines Isuzu is going to do the settings and tunings of the suspension to meet our philosophy,” Matsumoto said.
“We will consign development to Isuzu. However, our Mazda engineers are also involved, for example test driving the vehicle with Isuzu. Designing, engineering and production these activities are consigned to Isuzu.”
Fujiwara added: “Some of the tuneable parts we can do that, very small portion. The fundamental platform, fundamental architecture we cannot do that.”
Like the current Ranger and BT-50 agreement, the next BT-50 will be visually distinct from the Isuzu D-Max it shares its chassis and engines with.
“Same level [of difference] as between Ranger and BT-50,” Fujiwara said.
Fujiwara also ruled out the chances of Mazda producing a seven-seat SUV based off the ute underpinnings, as Isuzu does with the MU-X.
“No, probably the same level as the current situation,” he said.
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