Suzuki is the latest auto maker to 'borrow' a model from a rival to enter the US market though its new Equator truck unveiled at the Chicago motor show more closely resembles its Nissan 'donor' vehicle than VW's Dodge Caravan-based minivan.

It's a reversal of roles for Suzuki which is a big supplier of minivehicles to other makers on an 'OEM' basis in its native Japan. In this case, Nissan is making a variant of its US-built Frontier restyled and badged for Suzuki as the Equator.

The Equator is Suzuki's first entry into the US midsize pickup truck market and expands the company's offering of activity-oriented cars and trucks.

The Equator - launched as a 2009 model - will be available in both extended cab and crew cab body styles, and with rear-wheel and four-wheel-drive, and goes on sale in the fourth quarter of 2008. Pricing has not yet been announced.

"Since Suzuki has continued to strengthen its brand equity among outdoor enthusiasts, we thought now was the right time to produce a vehicle that meets the additional needs many of these people have," said Mark Harano, president of American Suzuki Automotive Operations. "Truck buyers are a particularly good fit for Suzuki since they're likely to participate in motorcycle riding, power boating and other lifestyle-oriented activities that fit with our brand identity and our product portfolio. The Equator provides Suzuki with an opportunity to build an authentic connection with a group of consumers who are familiar with our brand and, in many circumstances, own other Suzuki products."

Suzuki showed three concept versions in Chicago, the RMZ-4 for off-road enthusiasts, Quad for outdoor adventurers and Quay for boating and watersports fans.

The production Equator has a 152hp 2.5-litre DOHC inline petrol I4 engine as standard and offers an optional 261hp four-litre V6.

Gearboxes are either a five-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission (I4 and V6) or five-speed manual transmission (I4) and a shift-on-the-fly four-wheel-drive system with an electronically controlled part-time two-speed transfer case is optional. A comprehensive off-road traction system, including four-wheel limited slip, electronic locking rear differential, vehicle dynamic control (VDC), hill descent control and hill start assist are also on offer.

Parts unique to the Equator include bonnet (hood), front guards (fenders), grille, bumpers, front fascia and tailgate.

Suzuki also will offer specialised load bed accessories claimed to make loading, securing and transporting a motorcycle or ATV easier than in many competitive trucks.