Mazda Returns to the Pickup Market, Just Not Our Pickup Market
You wouldn’t know it today, but pickup trucks are an important part of Mazda’s heritage. The Zoom-Zoom brand introduced its line of B-Series trucks in the U.S. in 1972, where they quickly became a favorite of the West Coast mini-truck community. From 1974 to 1977, it also offered the Rotary Pickup, the only production truck to be powered by a rotary engine. The 1986-’93 B-Series was considered to be one of the best compact pickups on the market, blending practicality with a fun-to-drive character that the brand is still known for today. But from ’94 on, Mazda’s trucks were little more than rebadged Ford Rangers, and in its pursuit of building the perfect driver’s car (and losing its Ford connection), the company hasn’t offered a truck since 2009. But that may change very soon, thanks to a new partnership with Isuzu.
Isuzu has been the go-to partner of late when an automaker needs a truck. After pulling out of the U.S. passenger market in 2009, it’s continued to partner with GM (especially Chevrolet) on commercial trucks, and supplies diesel engines to everyone from Ford to Nissan-Renault. If Mazda should partner with any other Japanese automaker for its truck knowledge, it’s Isuzu.
In a brief press statement issued earlier this week, the companies announced:
Mazda Motor Corporation … and Isuzu Motors Limited … have reached a basic agreement on next-generation pick-up truck collaboration, allowing Isuzu to enhance its product competiveness and Mazda to strengthen its product line-up and maintain own-brand market coverage.
Isuzu will produce next-generation pick-up trucks for Mazda, based on Isuzu’s pick-up truck model.
For those of you dreaming about an all-new Mazda compact pickup that can take corners like a Mazda3, and is as responsive as a Miata, think again. This new Mazda pickup isn’t coming to America anytime soon.
Isuzu’s current pickup is the D-Max, which is itself a badge-engineered version of the Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon. Power comes from either a 2.5-liter Isuzu diesel, or a 3.0-liter gasoline mill. Five-speed manual and automatic transmissions are available, and it’s offered in both a single and crew cab. The current D-Max has been around since 2013, so it’s likely that Mazda will get involved with the next-generation model. Even if we don’t get it here, we hope that the two companies will strike out on their own instead of relying so heavily on GM design and technology.
And of course, hope springs eternal. The reason the Isuzu-Mazda truck won’t make it our way is ostensibly because of the Chicken Tax (which includes, among other things, a 25% tariff on imported trucks), and that could potentially be worked around if the companies decide to build the truck in North America. Mazda has a new plant in Salamanca, Mexico, and it has said in the past that it would explore building different models there.
The new Toyota Tacoma is as popular as ever, the Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon have been hits for GM, the Nissan Frontier is due for a refresh, and a revived Ford Ranger is slated to bow for 2018. Fiat-Chrysler is also looking at a return to the compact truck market if demand continues to rise. So if compact pickups continue to attract buyers, it just might force Mazda to do something about it. It may be a long shot, but hey, we can dream…