If Mehran is regarded as ruling the small car category for the last 2 decades in Pakistan, there is another model which has been ruling the medium size commercial vehicle for almost 3 decades in the country too. Yes, this model is none other then Mazda’s T3500 or Titan. This model is a multi purpose medium size truck capable of doing different work. From refrigeration vans for Ice Cream and frozen food companies to cargo delivery, from working as a garbage transfer vehicle to ladder van for electric supply companies etc. But this model also has performed one purpose which it was not suppose to do, that is to carry passengers and act as Public Transport vehicle. Here in this article we will pay tribute to this model which is still performing its duties for nearly 3 decades.
Back in 1980’s Sindh Engineering limited signed a Joint venture deal with Mazda motors Japan for assembling Titan in Pakistan. In the late ’81, production started as the first truck goes on sale. For the first 2 years the sales were normal, but from the 3rd year the sales started going upwards in a bit abnormal manner, Mazda management in Japan were shocked with the sales values, so to investigate what is the cause of such boost in sales they sent a team of engineers and management personnel to Pakistan. When these engineers saw the cause of such abnormal boost in sales they were amazed and worried as Sindh Engineering management have put the non-cab chassis for sales by building a bus body on to it.
Just at that time, Karachi was in a revolutionary stage of transportation as big buses were not able to go into congested areas and a new means of transport was coming on the horizon which was known as Mini Bus. These Mini buses were the cause of the boost in sales of Mazda T3500. Because of smaller turning radius then a larger Bus these mini-buses can go to places which were previously out of reach and people have to take Rickshaws and Taxis to reach to their destinations. Mazda T3500 is providing the perfect platform to build a mini bus and also was not as much expensive as an imported Toyota Coaster from Japan.
Mazda engineers returns to Japan and submit a negative report to their bosses about Sindh Engineering management but Mazda management like the idea of building a Bus Body on T3500 chassis, so they ask suggestions from those engineers to make it possible, the suggestion that was forwarded was to upgrade the rear suspension so that it could handle the passenger load easily. Mazda asks SEL to do that if they want to sell these chassis as Buses. SEL agreed upon the suggestion and upgraded the rear suspension to the required level.
In 2003, SEL and Mazda Japan JV deal ended, SEL was privatized and bought by Master Motors who nowadays produce buses and medium size Trucks in Joint Venture deal with Chinese Dong Feng Corporation.
As it was the first medium size truck, it remains the market leader for the first decade, in the early 90’s Hino introduces there medium size truck Ranger to compete against T3500 but the competition remains only in truck category, in mini bus category there still was no competition for T3500 based mini buses. Hino’s Ranger production was then been stopped in the late 90’s and another period of 7 or 8 years total domination for T3500 started in both categories till the end of Mazda’s JV deal. In the early 90’s SEL, introduces T3500 based coach model and may be it was a coincidence that at the same time transportation department of Sindh had introduced another mode of passenger service known as Coach. This service was based on seat-by-seat rule with a bit expensive fare then mini bus. Again T3500 was not only the preferred choice but also the sole choice available for that purpose and with their new coach model it was a perfect match for the new service.
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Nowadays, SEL (Master Motors) is still producing Chinese medium size trucks while Hino has introduced their DUTRO series medium size trucks but neither company have shown any interest in providing chassis for bus body building at all, which means Mazda T3500 is still the sole chassis available for building bodies for Mini-buses and Coaches in Karachi.
Karachi is the only city in Pakistan where we have mini buses, coaches and buses. Almost 20,000 mini buses and coaches are registered in Karachi and they run on daily basis on different routes all across Karachi, because of these mini buses and coaches bigger buses are in lower numbers and only run on major routes. All of these 20,000 mini buses and coaches are based on one chassis T3500 and even some times been called as Mazda instead of their route name. W11 is one famous route name and is rumored to have over 800 mini buses in its fleet.
If I am not wrong over 20,000 single chassis medium commercial vehicles registered in a single city and owned by private owners is something that could be a World record.