Mazda-Isuzu tie-up clouds fu­ture links, JOSHUA DOWL­ING writes

Geelong Advertiser - Motoring - - FRONT PAGE -

ONE mys­tery has been solved and another cre­ated.

Mazda will part­ner with Isuzu for its next gen­er­a­tion ute — due in 2020 — but it is un­clear what the fu­ture holds for the Isuzu-based Holden Colorado.

Fol­low­ing Mazda’s shock split Ford which it has had a part­ner­ship more than 30 years it has con­firmed will jointly de­velop

next BT-50 with com­mer­cial ve­hi­cle spe­cial­ist Isuzu.

It means the all-new Mazda BT-50 and Isuzu D-Max share the same un­der­pin­nings en­gines but will likely have dis­tinct bod­ies.

The rev­e­la­tion ex­plains why so few changes were made to BT-50 for its most re­cent up­date last year — when only the head­lights, grille and tail-lights changed at a time

Ford Ranger came in for sig­nif­i­cant up­grades.

While gained world-first tech­nol­ogy com­pact pick-ups, such as lane-keep­ing as­sis­tance and radar cruise con­trol, as well a new tur­bocharger, new in­jec­tors, elec­tric power steer­ing, a

dash body from the wind­screen for­ward, Mazda BT-50 re­mained un­touched in those ar­eas from when it was launched 2011.

The cur­rent gen­er­a­tion BT-50 is ex­pected to be built jointly owned Ford-Mazda fac­tory in Thai­land un­til late 2019, when it will phased out and re­placed by a ver­sion of the next Isuzu D-Max.

The news of the tie-up was so top se­cret rep­re­sen­ta­tives from in Aus­tralia had no idea deal had been signed.

A state­ment Mazda is­sued this week said two com­pa­nies “have reached a ba­sic agree­ment on nextgen­er­a­tion pick-up truck col­lab­o­ra­tion, al­low­ing Isuzu to en­hance its prod­uct com­pet­i­tive­ness and Mazda to strengthen its prod­uct line-up and main­tain own-brand mar­ket cov­er­age”.

The state­ment said Isuzu would pro­duce the ve­hi­cle for Mazda at its fac­tory in Thai­land that it be based on Isuzu’s next gen­er­a­tion D-Max.

While there was spec­u­la­tion might part­ner with Toyota and build a ver­sion of the HiLux (Mazda uses Toyota’s hy­brid sys­tem builds small car for over­seas), Isuzu has been mak­ing Mazda trucks for the Ja­panese mar­ket past 10 years.

“This agree­ment re­in­forces con­tin­u­ous long-term re­la­tion­ship be­tween and Isuzu,” state­ment says.

Fel­low maker Isuzu is the pick-up mar­ket leader in de­vel­op­ing coun­tries the Asia-Pa­cific re­gion.

How­ever, is out­sold by Toyota, Ford, Holden, Mit­subishi and Nissan in Aus­tralia.

All in­dus­try eyes will be on the new part­ner­ship be­cause the Mazda BT-50 is cur­rently a de­riv­a­tive of Ford Ranger — No.2 seller in Aus­tralia

whereas Isuzu D-Max is sec­ond­last of the main­stream utes lo­cal sales, nar­rowly ahead BT-50.

The Mazda BT-50 has been a sales dis­as­ter, sell­ing at less than half the rate Ford Ranger since lat­est mod­els went on sale in 2011, de­spite ini­tially be­ing iden­ti­cal un­der sheet metal.

Mazda deal­ers say buy­ers have not warmed to the swoopy BT-50 styling, which was meant bring pas­sen­ger­car ap­peal its work­horse but ended up po­lar­is­ing opin­ion.

It is un­clear at this stage what the Mazda-Isuzu deal means for Isuzu’s part­ner­ship with Gen­eral Mo­tors and the Holden Colorado.

The cur­rent Colorado Isuzu D-Max utes share the same chas­sis and were orig­i­nally de­vel­oped side-by-side (al­though made in sep­a­rate Thai­land fac­to­ries) be­fore a rift de­vel­oped and each brand elected to go their own way with diesel en­gines.

But in 2013 Isuzu Gen­eral Mo­tors is­sued a state­ment say­ing they had “signed mem­o­ran­dum of un­der­stand­ing to be­gin talks on the po­ten­tial joint de­vel­op­ment nextgen­er­a­tion pick-up trucks”.

Rep­re­sen­ta­tives from Holden and Isuzu said it was too early de­ter­mine what the Mazda-Isuzu tie-up meant for GM-Isuzu deal. The cur­rent Mazda BT-50

D-Max utes will likely re­main on sale in their guise un­til 2019, by which time they be long over­due

re­place­ment and sur­rounded much newer com­pe­ti­tion.

Holden is about to launch an up­dated ver­sion of its Colorado ute ahead an all-new model due by 2020.

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