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Mazda has a strong reputation for excellence when it comes to its vehicles. However, the Mazda Tribute is, unfortunately, one of its biggest failures, as people often call it one of the automaker’s worst SUVs. On the market from 2000 until 2011, many people are still familiar with the ill-fated Mazda vehicle. However, what many may not know is that the SUV is a collaboration between Ford and Mazda. In fact, it uses the Mazda 626 platform, which it shares with a far more successful SUV: the Ford Escape.

These Ford and Mazda SUVs were the result of a partnership

In the automotive world, it’s not uncommon for car makers to partner and even share platforms for vehicles. Regarding the Ford and Mazda partnership, it began in 1974, and the Blue Oval went on to buy a 24.5% stake in Mazda. This stake in Mazda later increased to 33.4%. After this, the automakers jointly produced the Mazda B-Series truck.

Later, Ford and Mazda came together to make a small crossover SUV. This was important because, at the time, this segment of vehicles was all the rage, and both needed an entry point into the small crossover SUV market. This led to them co-producing what became the Mazda Tribute and the Ford Escape. As mentioned before, this small SUV used the platform from a Mazda car. This has led to many who are in the know calling the Escape a Mazda in Ford clothing.

Unfortunately, Mazda discontinued the Tribute in 2011 due to low sales. However, beyond the low sales, many even call the Mazda Tribute one of the worst SUVs. Regarding the partnership, the recession put a huge damper on things, and Ford began to pull out. By 2014, the blue oval only owned about 2.1% of the company, and this stake in Mazda had dwindled to 0% by the following year.

What makes the Mazda Tribute among the worst SUVs

Despite the Ford and Mazda collaboration for these SUVs, the Tribute had several problems that made it one of the worst SUVs. Among its problems, the Mazda Tribute experienced transmission issues throughout its time on the market. Additionally, people didn’t simply experience symptoms like harsh gear shifts. Instead, several people experienced all-out transmission failure. As most people know, premature transmission failure is not an inexpensive problem to fix.

The engine was another problem with various Mazda Tribute model years. Because of this, many people experienced their Mazda SUV either going dead while driving or having random bursts of acceleration. Of course, both issues could cause car accidents while driving. In fact, the 2006 Mazda Tribute, in particular, had many issues with speed control. Unfortunately, the speed control problems led to three crashes and an injury. This issue mostly happened after the odometer reached 80,000 miles. All of this makes the Mazda Tribute a very problematic SUV. MazdaProblems even placed it at No. 15 out of 19 Mazda models for reliability.

The Tribute’s Ford sibling has quite a different history

Though the Ford Escape isn’t a perfect vehicle, it was, and still is, much more popular than the Mazda Tribute. This is because, despite the Ford and Mazda SUVs using the same platform, they had a few differences. Notably, the Mazda Tribute was tuned for a stiffer ride and had other special Mazda features to make it stand out. As mentioned before, the Ford Escape is still on the market and is a hot seller, which means it was clearly the better of the two.

So, did the partnership help or hurt Mazda? Well, it’s difficult to say because Ford decided to end the business relationship shortly after the Mazda Tribute’s discontinuation. However, Mazda seemed to find its stride after that. Sure, the company had some successes, such as the Mazda 626, but most of its best cars came after the Tribute. Perhaps some buyers lost trust in the automaker after it made one of the worst SUVs, but it didn’t seem to hurt Mazda in the long run.

The truth is that many people were unaware that the SUV even came from a collaboration between Ford and Mazda. The SUVs looked similar, but most people believed they were completely separate. Now, both automakers have reached success on their own.

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