Speculation

Mazda "listening" to see if it should bring its pickup truck to America

The redesigned Mazda BT-50 made its debut a few weeks ago.

Photo courtesy of Mazda

Should Mazda bring its BT-50 pickup truck to the U.S.? The company has said that they are "listening" to see if the public wants it. Let's take a closer look at its chances.

The BT-50 is a midsize truck. In the U.S. it would compete against the Ford Ranger, Chevrolet Colorado, Jeep Gladiator, Honda Ridgeline, GMC Canyon, and Nissan Frontier. The pickup truck field is set to get more competitive as the Hyundai Santa Cruz and Volkswagen Amarok coning to market in the next few years.

2021 Mazda BT-50 The backside of the Mazda BT-50 is pretty standard for a pickup truck. Photo courtesy of Mazda

Mazda's truck is built on the Isuzu D-Max platform and is built at Isuzu Motors Thailand. Despite this, the model has a fair amount of Mazda's Kodo design language ... at least on the outside. That starts at its face where the truck wears a grille and headlights similar to the three-row CX-9 SUV.

The inside is a different story. Here, the BT-50 is mostly an Isuzu but there are a few bobbles that are from the Mazda parts bin - sort of like what Toyota has done with the inherently BMW cabin of the 2020 Toyota Supra.

Under the hood is a 3.0-liter turbo-diesel four-cylinder engine that delivers 188 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque. The engine is paired with a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic transmission.

It's available in either two- or four-wheel drive.

Mazda boasts that the model will be able to tow up to 7,716 pounds and have a maximum payload of 2,348 pounds.

2021 Mazda BT-50 The interior of the BT-50 is straight from the Isuzu playbook, but it does have some Mazda touches.Photo courtesy of Mazda

But will it come to the U.S.? In a statement, Mazda told Roadshow, "We are excited for those regions receiving the all-new BT-50, featuring Mazda's powerful design, exceptional driving dynamics and utilitarian function," Mazda said in a statement. "While we haven't announced future availability of the BT-50 pickup truck in the US, we'd love to hear what our fans here think. We're listening."

Aside from demand, the biggest hurdle for the BT-50 to jump through for its arrival in the U.S. would be the fact that it's subject to a chicken tax tariff. The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) that recently replaced the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has a rules of origin clause for automobiles that requires 75 percent of the value of a vehicle to come from the area within the USMCA governing region. That tax and the cost of shipping could make the BT-50 cost prohibitive for most buyers.

The verdict: Don't bet on the BT-50 coming to the U.S. anytime soon. If you want to drive it, you'll want to head to Australia where it arrives for sale later this year.

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Nuts & Bolts

 
 

The new Safety Insights software takes away time delays and legwork issues surrounding traffic issue solution responsiveness.

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Henry Ford opened his first Canadian operation in 1904 just over the boarder from Detroit in the City of Windsor, Ontario. Today, the town is the country's first Canadian customer for Ford's Safety Insights platform. The platform, a new software tool the company is rolling out connects government workers with vehicle insights that give them an in-depth look at their city's streets without having to step outside the door of their office.

Safety Insights utilizes artificial intelligence, machine learning, and algorithms to deliver crash reduction predictions that can be explored using simulations and deep data dives without having to deploy any human resources to comb through police reports, send public works employees to sit at an intersection all day to investigate, or wait for calls from concerned citizens to come pouring in.

Ford Safety Insights software The Safety Insights software allows users to run simulations based on real traffic data.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Ford Safety Insights software

The data comes from Ford vehicles, simulations, and predictions that city planners and public works officials make by running simulations. The data taken from vehicles includes indicators of crash trends like harsh braking, traction control issues, and near misses. These numbers help give context to traditional crash data.

Safety Insights also integrates multi-modal traffic volume data from StreetLight Data.

Traditionally, cities use transportation data to identify traffic issues, but combing through it can be a costly and time-consuming process, according to Ford. With the combination of crash data and available simulation predictions, the Safety Insights system takes analysis and planning to the next level, allowing them to test new options for traffic flow and make more informed decisions.

Users can comb through the data, layer by layer, filtering by type of collision, including those involving pedestrians and cyclists, rear-end crashes, or rush hour collisions. The results are available in seconds rather than the days or weeks it would traditionally take.

The simulations run by the software include the impact of a crosswalk or bike line on traffic flow, or what adjusting signal timing would look like.

Ford isn't just offering Safety Insights to Canadian customers. U.S. municipalities are allowed to purchase it as well.

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The Mercedes-Benz GLA was redesigned for the 2021 model year.

Photo courtesy of Mercedes-Benz

The Mercedes-Benz GLA was completely redesigned for the 2021 model year, taking it from a mundane tuna can-like hatchback to a zippy, more traditional small SUV. Everything about it fits into the modern Mercedes SUV lineup. It's a mini Merc. It's formulaic and perfectly fine but it's just not that nice compared to what else you can get for around $40,000 (starting price is just over $36,000)

Mercedes sells the GLA in three variants with another on the way. There's the traditional GLA 250 and GLA 250 4MATIC, and the AMG GLA 35. A more high-performance version of the model, the AMG GLA 45 is coming soon. Front-wheel drive is standard and all-wheel drive is available on most models. A variety of drive modes allow the driver to choose how much torque they want to allocate to what wheels and additional setup options for suspension and dynamics are available on pricier GLAs.

2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 The car's infotainment and driver information screens are housed together as one unit.Photo courtesy of Mercedes-Benz

2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA 250

As tested, the GLA 250 was powered by the standard 2.0-liter turbo-four that is paired with an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission. It delivers 221 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. The SUV had trouble off the line during daily driving. The GLA's turbo lag added together with low-end gearing confusion to make the mundane drive from stop sign to stop sign in a neighborhood a comfortable creep followed by a robust burst of energy. Once out of the neighborhood and up to full speed on the highway, the powertrain performed far better, however, there was nothing elegant about it.

The model's steering is numb, which is typical for its class. It's steering circle isn't as tight as is optimal.

Any promise of a tranquil ride that you would think would be relatively standard with a Mercedes is not something the GLA possesses. However, for as much road noise that permeates the cabin, it's still less than the awful rattling the previous generation GLA allowed in. For that we can all be thankful.

The added height of the GLA gives the vehicle a more SUV-like seating position than its crossover predecessor. Ingress and egress is easy, as it should be with a model of these proportions. Head- and legroom for front passengers is fantastic for a vehicle of the GLA's size.

Seats in the GLA are not uncomfortable, and certainly not the worst that Mercedes offers.Photo courtesy of Mercedes-Benz

Mercedes wins points for the GLA's tech, which is easy to use, responsive, and pleasing to the eye. The GLA comes standard with the Mercedes-Benz two screens, in one large housing. Its Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX) operating system runs two 7.0-inch screens. The centrally located screen, which controls the infotainment system, reacts to touch and can also be operated by a touchpad controller on the center console. The list of standard equipment also includes four USB ports, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto.

Buyers can upgrade their model to include a 10.25-inch infotainment touch screen, 12-speaker Burmester audio system, wireless device charging, a Wi-Fi hot spot, head-up display, and navigation.

Mercedes gives every GLA a reasonable amount of active safety features. The list includes a rearview camera, blind spot monitoring, forward collision warning, vehicle exit warning, automatic emergency braking, driver drowsiness monitoring, and crosswind assist. To get the most desirable safety features, GLA buyers need to add on two packages, which drive up the price $2,800.

The SUV has ample space in the second row for adults.Photo courtesy of Mercedes-Benz

The GLA's interior materials, cabin noise, and unrefined powertrain make it seem like a less-than premium SUV. The car's tech offerings give it a boost, but other models offer a longer list of standard and available safety technology.

Buyers who are savvy and looking to get the most bang for their buck will want to test drive similarly sized models like the 2020 Buick Encore GX, Jaguar E-Pace (it was refreshed for the 2021 model year with major changes), and Mazda CX-30 before committing to the GLA. They have interiors that are just as nice and offer price tags that are more wallet-friendly.

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