We want the Mazda BT-50. Mazda used to sell pickup trucks in the US and it could use a shot in the arm that the BT-50 would give it. But will the US get the new 2021 Mazda BT-50 pickup truck? We’ll get into that in a bit, let’s find out about the BT-50 first.
Yesterday it was unveiled in Australia, one of the BT-50s biggest markets. It’s a great looking package that adopts Mazda’s Kodo design language. In the US it is similar to the CX-9 with some subtle distinctions. But overall it displays a wedge-like profile for this third-generation pickup.
Mazda shares the 2021 BT-50 platform with the Isuzu D-Max truck
Initially, it will only be available as a dual-cab body but within the next year a single-cab work truck should follow. Mazda is sharing this platform with the Isuzu D-Max pickup truck so the chassis and powertrain are Isuzu-based. It will also be built on the same D-Max assembly line in Thailand.
After years using Ford powertrains by its bones being Isuzu-based it will now be powered by Isuzu engines. A 3.0-liter four-cylinder turbodiesel engine will now be powering the BT-50. The new engine features 188 hp and 332 lb-ft of torque. Plenty of grunt for the package.
An additional gas engine option will be available at the beginning of 2021. Details were not available at the debut. The diesel is considered the premium engine which is why it was initially featured. Two transmissions are offered with either two- or four-wheel-drive. The manual and automatic are both six-speeds.
While Isuzu-based the BT-50 body is Mazda through and through
While a lot of the BT-50 is Isuzu-based the body is Mazda through and through. So the execution and interior features will be above what one would expect in this class of truck. Some features like the 9.0-inch infotainment touchscreen and climate controls are Isuzu-sourced.
The BT-50 would make a handsome addition to the Mazda lineup in the US. Unfortunately, there is a huge impediment keeping that from happening, but there may be some reason for hope. It’s called the “chicken tax.” Back in 1963, President Lyndon Johnson imposed the 25% tax after Europe imposed tariffs on the import of US chickens. It applies to light trucks.
For foreign manufacturers to get around the tax they must manufacture anything with a bed in the US. So for Mazda to add the BT-50 to its US lineup it would need to build it here. It could be a separate assembly plant or piggyback onto an existing plant making Mazdas. Currently, there are three Mazda US plants, two co-owned by Ford.
If Mazda builds the CX-9 SUV at its new Huntsville plant it could build the BT-50 too.
The Kansas City, Missouri, plant, and Flat Rock, Michigan, plants are the Ford co-owned facilities. A third plant partnered with Toyota in Huntsville, Alabama, is expected to begin assembling SUVs starting in 2021. If one of those SUVs is the CX-9 then there is a possibility the BT-50 could be assembled there as well. It depends on what co-venture Toyota’s plans are for the plant.
One thing for sure is that the SUV and pickup truck markets just keep heating up. Mazda should expect a competitive midsize pickup like the BT-50 would do well in the US. Even if the stars were to align and Mazda did decide to add the pickup to its US models it wouldn’t happen until 2022 or 2023 at the earliest. By then the market will dictate how desirable it will be for Mazda to market a pickup in the US.