Isuzu Motors will supply small trucks to Mazda for sale under the Mazda brand in a bid to strengthen both companies’ core businesses, the two firms said on Friday, according to a Reuters report.

The move marks a complete pullout by Mazda from the development of trucks, as Japan’s fifth-largest car maker aims to concentrate its limited resources on the core passenger car business to expand after a decade of lost growth, Reuters said.

OEM deals – one vehicle maker producing a variant of its own model for another – are common in Japan. Mazda has in the past developed, built and sold its own Titan light truck and these were also sold under the Ford brand in some Asia-Pacific markets.

The company currently badges its Thai-built B-series light pickup as the Ford Ranger – these models are completely different from the Ford-designed and built US B-series and Ranger models – and, until recently, Mazda rebadged its Familia (323) and Capella (626) as the Laser and Telstar for Ford Japan.

In separate OEM deals, Suzuki sells Mazda rebadged variants of its Jimny mini-SUV (the Mazda AZ Offroad), Wagon R minivan (Mazda AZ Wagon), Carry van and pickup (Mazda Scrum) and Kei (Mazda Laputa), as well as other models. Suzuki also builds Mazda’s Carol minicar and supplies a version of its MR Wagon to Nissan badged as the Moco.

Isuzu will rebadge its Elf light truck (above) to replace Mazda’s current Titan line (below).

According to Friday’s Reuters report, the Isuzu-Mazda OEM light truck deal is also expected to benefit Isuzu by bolstering its truck business, which faces toughening competition following Nissan Motor’s decision this year to move into light trucks with Nissan Diesel Motor instead of with Isuzu.

Under the OEM (original equipment manufacturing) agreement, Isuzu, owned 12% by General Motors, will develop and build 6,000 of its two- to three-tonne Elf trucks a year to be sold in Japan with Mazda’s Titan badge starting in the second half of 2004, Reuters said, citing an Isuzu-Mazda statement.

Reuters noted that Isuzu, known for its prowess in diesel technology, currently provides Mazda, owned one-third by Ford, with diesel engines for the Titan, production of which Mazda outsourced to Isuzu affiliate Press Kogyo Company in June. Press Kogyo will stop building the Titan in late 2004, the report added.

Reuters said that, as part of the broader agreement, Press Kogyo will in August also begin producing Mazda’s Titan Dash, Bongo truck and Bongo Brawny truck, leaving Mazda with the production only of one-tonne vans, among commercial vehicles.

Procuring fully assembled trucks from other makers is expected to save Mazda money as development costs to meet stricter environmental regulations soar, the report added.

Reuters also noted that Toyota is also moving to consolidate its small-truck development at subsidiary Hino Motors ahead of a tightening of emission regulations.

Isuzu so far has the top share of the Japanese domestic small truck market, capturing 38% in April and May, the Reuters report added.