Home » What If Mazda Built A Pickup To Compete With The Ford Maverick? Sketches From Our Daydreaming Designer

What If Mazda Built A Pickup To Compete With The Ford Maverick? Sketches From Our Daydreaming Designer

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Can nostalgia provide the way forward? Usually no. Reviving some muscle car will get press coverage, a bit of showroom traffic, and excite some boomers but ,it won’t point a direction to the future. Still, there are times where digging into the past will give a company the solutions they can use to make a market hit; I have what I think might be a good what-if example of that.

Today, smaller unibody pickup trucks appear to be a market segment that’s hotter than Cabbage Patch Kids dolls during the holiday season of 1983 (if you weren’t alive then, trust me, it was nuts watching grown adults fighting for these stupid looking dolls). Ford seems to have lead the charge with the Maverick, and the Hyundai Santa Cruz offers an alternative for buyers. Compact, car-like four door pickups seem to be resonating with buyers, and entries from RAM, Toyota, Nissan, and even Kia appear to be on the horizon.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom
Small Trucks
Kia, Ford

Conspicuously absent, at least for now, is Mazda. This brand used to be a player in the little pickup market, famously offering a rotary powered truck in the early seventies until the poor fuel economy (and poor rotor tip sealing) did it in:

Mazda Rotary
Bring A Trailer

Later, Mazda offered more conventionally-powered, affordable alternatives to Nissan and Toyota offerings with their B Series trucks; eventually the Mazda name was just put onto restyled Ford Rangers from 1994 to 2010 before they exited the truck market in America.

Old Mazdas
Mazda, Cars And Bids

 

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Is there enough of a market for Mazda to hop back into the market? In Asia and other markets, the brand offers a pickup which is really just a rebadged Isuzu called the BT-50. Well, it’s more than a rebadge since it has that nice corporate Mazda nose on it, but it’s not really a Mazda. For whatever reason (probably production), they chose to not sell it the United States.

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Mazda

However, I’m not talking about a body-on-frame style vehicle like the BT-50 as a new Mazda truck. What I would imagine is an SUV-based entry likely using a Mazda SUV like the new CX-50 as a starting point.

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Mazda

 

Mazda SUVs remain a strong entry in the market and still near the top of my recommendation list when people ask me what sport utility or crossover to buy (and then they ignore me and buy something ‘they got a better deal on’ which turns out to be an unmitigated piece of crap).

Here’s roughly what a CX-50-based compact pickup might look like:

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Mazda

The shape works rather well for a pickup, and once the length is stretched it’s within an inch or so of the Maverick.  Ah, but as Darth Vader said in that 1980s Chrysler Laser commercial – “the competition is good… we have to be better”. To that end, the Mazda has a few tricks up its sleeve.

First off, our CX-50 pickup wouldn’t just be a hybrid, but a plug-in hybrid. Next, Mazda would go back to its roots of making pickups that were–as the bold lettering on their tailgates said– ROTARY POWERED. Mazda is installing a single rotor range-extending motor in their smaller hybrid MX-30 R-EV model in markets outside of the US.

New Rotary
Mazda

This CX-50 truck would get that as well, with a twist. One advantage of the rotary engine is that it’s quite small–look at an old RX-7’s drivetrain and the transmission seems bigger than the motor. This means that we could install the range extender motor and a small fuel tank in the space behind the rear seats and under the bed. Now the whole engine compartment can be a frunk, making this CX-90 one of the only frunked hybrid vehicles ever produced (besides a BMW i3 with a range extender like David’s, can you think of any others?). The Ford Maverick won’t give you that.

Screenshot (710)q

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The cargo bed has some innovative features as well to throw shade on Ford. There’s a slot below the tailgate that acts as a step (but keeps the length of the truck short), and if you fold down this gate and try to drive off, the license plate is released to drop down so you’re street legal with a visible tag. It then drops back down and locks when you fold up the gate again:

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Now for the (possibly optional) feature that will be the mic drop for this Mazda. Here’s a way that owners of this pickup can have the option of quickly converting cargo area into an enclosed space.

I’ve looked at a possible way to do this a little while back (which was admittedly a bit complex), and Nissan actually offered an interesting ‘accordion’ like solution for doing this in concept form years ago.

Screenshot (672) 2
Nissan via Jason Torchinsky

There are answers to covering your bed now; you could get a fiberglass bed cap, but you’ll have to unbolt a bunch of fasteners, lug the big plastic box off of the truck, and dump it in your back yard when not needed.

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Ford

Soft ‘convertible top’ options like taller covers for your bed are offered as well that eliminate the lifting off of the heavy cap, but these can be time consuming structures to remove and install.

Lg Outlander Soft Truck Topper Cutout
JP3 Motorsports

What if you could go from a standard height covered bed to an enclosed space similar to what you would get with a bed cap, all with just the push of a button?

You’d start with a rather standard looking retractable bed cover as you would see on most pickups today. However, this bed cover is mounted to a U-shaped aluminum frame that goes around the sides and front of the bed. By hitting a switch in the cargo bay, that whole frame rises up with struts that simulate the scissor jack mechanism you might see on anything from a power rear sunshade in a luxury car to, on a much larger scale, those elevating cargo boxes at airports.

As the bed cover rises there are convertible-top-like canvas sides that fill in the void space. I would likely need some elastic straps or something similar to be sure that the fabric pulls inward instead of outward (getting caught in the seal when the thing is collapsed).

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At the tailgate, I could see two options. One would be a clear vinyl cover that retracts out of the top of the tailgate, while the other would be a power operated glass window that rises out of the tailgate as on an old American station wagon (or an old O.J. Simpson-style Bronco). Your cargo is protected from the elements, but you still have the option to carry almost infinitely tall items in back when you want to.

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Screenshot (711) A

Now you have three options: open bed, covered bed, or raised bed cap, all available within seconds with almost no effort. Would there be kinks to work out? Of course, but it would certainly beat having to unbolt a giant piece of fiberglass and having to invite friends over to lift this heavy thing off of your truck any time you want a normal bed. Or, with a soft cover, having to spend a portion of an hour unzipping and unsnapping a bunch of fasteners and manipulating some frame system. Honestly, that’s a hassle that likely stops anyone from trying that once they have a bed cap or cover installed; they will ask themselves ‘how badly do I really want to take this off? Or, ‘screw it, let’s go to Home Depot and rent a truck for twenty bucks an hour’.

Who knows? Maybe Mazda could make a larger CX-90 based pickup as well, giving the Ford Ranger a headache or two. Why not?

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E360 My23 Cx9 Touring Snowflakewhite 005 A

There’s always room in the market for a new, innovative entry, and it’d be too bad if Mazda didn’t hop back in. The Rotary Club has been lacking members recently, and it’s time to change that.

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Our Daydreaming Designer Imagines The Perfect Little Escape Pod-Car For Your Big Truck – The Autopian

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Rabob Rabob
Rabob Rabob
9 months ago

I have a Softtopper and it’s a 5 minute job to take it on or off.

Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
9 months ago

I don’t get those micro trucks. Like the Baja and Santa Cruz etc. What good is a bed that short?

Taargus Taargus
Taargus Taargus
9 months ago

There’s a reason they’re marketed for the outdoorsy type. Sometimes the value is just being able to separate whatever nasty stuff you have with you from the passenger area.

To people like my parents who are basically obsessive gardeners, a Maverick or a Santa Cruz is probably the ideal vehicle for them. A niche for sure, but for your typical weekend warrior this is a good compromise of reasonable cost and reasonable capability.

I for one promote the hell out of these vehicles in hopes of keeping some massive trucks off the road.

Last edited 9 months ago by Taargus Taargus
Rabob Rabob
Rabob Rabob
9 months ago

You can hang mountain bikes off the tailgate. You could also get a rack for a sedan or a suv but the cheap racks suck (scary flimsy, especially if you’re worried about causing an accident) and quality ones like 1Up are $600+ for a 2-bike rack.

Having $700 bolted to the back of your car with an easily defeated tumbler lock sucks especially if you leave your car at a trailhead where breakins happen everyday. My buddy has a Mazda 3 and even though the rack is on a class2 hitch it drops his mileage by 10mpg on the freeway.

Maverick mileage is good so there’s not much difference between it and a sedan anymore.

Zipn Zipn
Zipn Zipn
10 months ago

I’d love a PHEV with a rotary range extender – but unlike the wimpy MX-30 need to assure 3 things.

  1. Enough flying Dorito + generator to not only power the truck when cruising (80mph) but also provide enough extra juice to gently put some charge back in the battery WHILE cruising. Like the MX30 the ICE just is a range extender – NO connection to the drivetrain.
  2. Large enough battery to go at least 50 miles (75-100) so that even longer trips into town and back could be done all-battery.
  3. Large enough electric motor(s) & drivetrain to have GOOD 0-60 times (thinking minimum < 7 secs , < 6 seconds even better).

It wouldn’t be the beautiful RX-VISION, but it would be practical and would cover all the needs for most single-vehicle buyers, and makes a great compliment to a owner who already has a full EV.

I’d buy one.

Cryptoenologist
Cryptoenologist
10 months ago
Reply to  Zipn Zipn

The range thing is my issue with almost all PHEVs other than the bigger battery i3s. I don’t want to have to charge at home every night to get an all-electric commute. I have a 24 mile round-trip commute and can charge at work but doing it every day is unlikely due to limited availability and inconvenient as the charger is at another building. 130 miles of electric range with a highway capable range extender would work great for us.

But then inevitably I realize that a 250 mile EV is the same price and the times per year we need to drive farther than that in one stretch are in the low single digits. And the complexity is lower, and the performance higher for the pure EV. And I’m back to
square one.

OnceInAMillenia
OnceInAMillenia
10 months ago

No to the CX-90 version, that’s in the Tacoma’s and Ridgeline’s territory and that’s just a losing battle. I say the opportunity is the smaller side. Give me an actual tiny city truck (not these 200″ behemoths we call compact) based on the gas 143 HP MX-30. Looking at some photos, the cargo area is already ~27″, and adding another 27″ to the end would match the Maverick’s bed length and still keep the overall length about half a foot shorter. Or, remove those tiny rear seats and use their 30″ of legroom and you’re looking at 54″ bed in a vehicle under 180″ long. Now THAT’S practical.

Chris Moore
Chris Moore
10 months ago

Pop goes the Mazda cause the Mazda go pop! Marketing done…I’ll take my check!

But as to the rest of the article…let’s also pour one out for the Mazdarati wherever she may be.

MiniDave
MiniDave
10 months ago

That’s all fine and good, but why does everything have to be a 4 door? Why can’t we get an extra cab style? There are plenty of them being built all over the rest of the planet – why do we still need these giant things?

Rabob Rabob
Rabob Rabob
9 months ago
Reply to  MiniDave
  1. Consumer demand 2. Unibody 3.Gas mileage standards
Alexander Moore
Alexander Moore
9 months ago
Reply to  MiniDave

I’m assuming considerably more unibody revisions would need to be made for a two-door for very minimal sales uptake, thus lose-lose in terms of R&D costs.

Dogisbadob
Dogisbadob
10 months ago

Mazda should sell the BT50 over here too

Mannish
Mannish
10 months ago
Reply to  Dogisbadob

I’ve always loved the BT-50. I assume they don’t import it because of the chicken tax, but I would buy one in a heartbeat if they did.

That Guy with the Sunbird
That Guy with the Sunbird
9 months ago
Reply to  Mannish

Same. Certified Mazda fanboy here. Have had a 2008 3, a 2013 CX-5, and currently have a 2016 CX-5 and a 2016 6. All have served and are serving me incredibly well. Fun to drive, reliable, economical, etc. Would love a truck that was also a Mazda (and not a rebadged early 2000s archaic Ford Ranger).

Mannish
Mannish
10 months ago

God…I saw the words “Mazda” and “pickup” in the headline and in the beat it took to read the rest of it I was already doing the financial logistics in my head to drop cash on a preorder RIGHT NOW.

Mannish
Mannish
10 months ago
Reply to  The Bishop

I own a B-series (1999, so the Ranger clone) and have been eyeing potential replacements for the middle future. Hell, isn’t Mazda building (already built?) a plant in Indiana for the CX-90? Build the truck there too and boom, you’ve avoided the chicken tax!

Chrisjbuffy
Chrisjbuffy
10 months ago
Reply to  Mannish

Alabama, for the CX-50. Feasible, but they share the plant with Toyota and it’s already stretched thin. Maybe someday!

Pat Rich
Pat Rich
10 months ago

I think factory attempts to make the “anything” truck are doomed to fail. Make the best truck you can and leave the rest to the aftermarket. OR even better…partner with one of the aftermarket companies and brand one of their pieces to be sold by your dealer network.

Church
Church
10 months ago
Reply to  Pat Rich

This. I can’t speak to the accuracy, but I remember reading that at one point (maybe even still? idk) Bestop was making the tops for Jeep. If an aftermarket company is better at it, just partner with them!

Pat Rich
Pat Rich
10 months ago
Reply to  Church

Jeep used all kinds of aftermarket companies to sell their in their dealers. The Original “factory” aftermarket lift kit for the JK was made in Utah by Teraflex.

Goose
Goose
10 months ago
Reply to  Pat Rich

I totally agree, with the exception being the Avalanche’s (and soon to be Silverado EV’s) mid-gate. That thing seems like a no brainer for a small to mid-size truck. But besides that, I can’t really think of any other built in convertible truck bed cap or dual purposely do it all truck bed gimmick that has been good.

Last edited 10 months ago by Goose
Alexk98
Alexk98
10 months ago

I was seriously cross shopping the Maverick before I settled on a CX-30 (mostly due to availability) but if Mazda made a CX-50 trucklet, I would drop everything and buy one, absolutely no questions asked.

Isaac
Isaac
10 months ago

I will gladly trade my yet to be delivered Maverick on one of these! Love this look!

2cv8
2cv8
10 months ago

I might be nitpicking here, but if you put the motor, fuel tank, etc., under the rear seat and bed, where does the spare tire go?

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
10 months ago
Reply to  2cv8

What’s a spare tire?

TurboCruiser
TurboCruiser
10 months ago

“Pickup”

It’s sad that a vehicle with an open-air trunk can be considered a pickup, but here we are today. We don’t consider the old Baja a pickup do we?

Last edited 10 months ago by TurboCruiser
Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
10 months ago
Reply to  TurboCruiser

My definition of a pickup is a car with a large open cargo box instead of passenger areas. If it has 5-6 full seats and a box no bigger than a trunk, then it’s just a sedan missing a body panel.

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
10 months ago

The bed cover doohickey is interesting. The rest, not so much. Still hoping for a 2-door mini truck with at least a 5-foot bed. Don’t need/want a back seat. Could be SUV or coupe based, maybe even wagon. Doesn’t matter. Hope springs eternal, but I’ll likely be driving a restomod trucklet unless Stellantis brings the RAM 700 2-door this way.

Rusty S Trusty
Rusty S Trusty
10 months ago

Sof-top makes a canvas bed cover that converts from a topper to a tonneau with a scissor frame much like the one described here. It doesn’t work at the push of a button but it’s also not a big hassle. https://www.fas-top.com/fas-top-traveler-topper-tonneau/

Drew
Drew
10 months ago
Reply to  Rusty S Trusty

That’s pretty cool, I had not seen that one.

Rusty S Trusty
Rusty S Trusty
10 months ago
Reply to  The Bishop

It’s neat that the mechanism you conjured up in an afternoon is so similar to one that’s actually used for that purpose.

Drew
Drew
10 months ago

Don’t shut up, but do take my money!

Taco Shackleford
Taco Shackleford
10 months ago

That is so much better looking than a Sant Cruz. Do it Mazda!

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