Mazda BT-50

The chief designer of Mazda took inspiration from the lion and the landscape of Australia for the new BT-50 pick-up.

Mazda's simple, mid-sized pickup, the BT-50, will be undergoing a major upgrade in its next incarnation that could see it go from an invisible work truck to a desirable, athletic showboat.

This thoroughly practical vehicle has undergone a dramatic transformation at the hands of Ryo Yanagisawa, the chief designer of Mazda. Yanagisawa shared his design journey with the BT-50 at the Mazda Brand Forum in Hiroshima.

Yanagisawa has been with Mazda since 1991; in that time, he has been involved with a broad range of vehicles, including the 1995 CU-X, the 626 wagon, the Mazda 5, the CX-9 and a SUV concept.

"The BT-50 is my first car as chief designer," he told the forum.

For inspiration for the BT-50, he was sent to Australia, an experience that makes him wax lyrical: "I am inspired by the great outdoors - in the Australian outback there is the sweeping, dynamic landscapes, Ayers Rock, the amazing 3D shapes by the sea, such as the Great Ocean Road, Tasmania, the power and beauty of the Australian landscape, there is nothing like that in Japan."

The inspiration of nature's strong shapes were then taken home to be translated into the vision Mazda had for a completely revised BT-50.

"It is an active lifestyle vehicle," Yanagisawa declared. "It had to be a head-turner with an overwhelming presence."

Yanagisawa also gained inspiration another natural form - a lion.

"He is the proud king of the beasts with his sharp eyes and profile, intelligence and lean body ready to impose on its prey," says Yanagisawa. "He is a sophisticated beast."

The final design moves away from the BT-50's traditional boxy pickup shape and offers better cabin space, so that it finds a market as a passenger car while still retaining the same load capacity in the back. Executives said they consider the Nissan Navara as the BT-50's main competitor.

The new interior is more high end and sporty. The asymmetrical, wraparound cockpit is far removed from a cabin designed for workmen and toolboxes. It is expected that cloth, vinyl and leather seats will be offered.

The BT-50 is not expected to be available in the UAE until 2012 but it will be interesting to see if the new looks will attract buyers who want a truck for play rather than work.