Nakamine, responsible for Mazda’s operations in all markets bar North and South America, said the company had more to gain by focusing on its road-focused range of SUVs and passenger cars, and would leave the rugged 4×4 wagon segment to vehicles like the Toyota Fortuner, Ford Everest and Mitsubishi Pajero Sport for now.
“At this moment I don’t think [we’ll enter that market]. We don’t have that kind of derivative of the BT-50,” Nakamine said to TMR at the opening of Mazda Australia’s new headquarters in Melbourne.. “We already have a quite strong SUV product in CX-3, CX-5 and CX-9, and we should focus on that segment because we see more opportunities there.”
Yuji Nakamine That will leave Mazda without a rival to the aforementioned 4×4 wagons – all of whom are built atop commercial ute platforms – but also without a body-on-frame competitor to the Toyota Prado, which continues to dominate the large SUV segment with 3720 sales so far this year.
The Mazda CX-9, by contrast, has only racked up 499 sales since the start of 2016, but with a long-awaited all-new model arriving in the middle of this year Mazda’s fortunes in the third-largest vehicle segment should improve markedly.
But the CX-9 will be strictly a petrol-only affair. Is Mazda missing out by not having a body-on-frame, diesel-powered family SUV in its product portfolio?
So far this year the Fortuner, Pajero Sport and Everest have moved around 1000 cars each (with the Pajero Sport the leader at 1157 units since January), but unibody 7-seat SUVs like the Hyundai Santa Fe, Ford Territory, Holden Captiva7, Toyota Kluger and Nissan Pathfinder have sold between 1500 and 2400 units over the same period.
Only the Isuzu MU-X (a wagon derivative of the D-Max utility) bucks the trend with its 1720 year-to-date sales figure.
But Mazda’s reluctance to enter the 4×4 wagon fray may also have something to do with uncertainty about the BT-50’s future.
The current model, produced as a joint venture with Ford, will need a replacement in the coming years. The leading rumour is that Mazda may up stumps and collaborate with Toyota on its next ute – but nothing has been set in stone as yet.
“At this moment I’m not in a position to talk clearly about this project, but the ute market, is greatly important,” Nakamine said. “At this moment we are starting to learn the best way to support the market in the ute segment.” “Currently we have a partnership with Ford on that project, but also maybe in the future there could be other alternative [partners].”
With such question marks still hovering over the future of the BT-50, it’s perhaps no surprise that wagon-bodied ute spin-offs are presently a low priority for the Japanese automaker.