DETROIT – Mazda North American Operations plans to do away with its small B-Series pickup truck.

Robert Davis, senior vice president-research and development and quality, tells Ward’s at the North American International Auto Show here the truck will end its run when production operations cease at Ford Motor Co.’s Twin Cities St. Paul, MN, plant.

The facility, which also builds the Ranger small pickup, originally was set to close this year. But Ford announced an extension until 2011.

Davis admits 90% of Mazda’s U.S. dealers don’t sell the truck, which had a 238 days’ supply at the end of December, Ward’s data shows. However, the truck is important for some of Mazda’s dealers, including those in Knoxville, TN; Austin, TX; Eastern Canada and Puerto Rico.

Davis says the B-Series makes up 25% of the total sales at one Mazda dealer in Puerto Rico.

Mazda currently is retailing its next-generation, Thailand-built B-Series in overseas markets, called the BT-50.

Davis says he would be “all over it” for the U.S. market, if the 25% import tariff imposed by the U.S. government on imported trucks were lifted. “I’d love to do it. The dealers (here) have a high level of interest (in the BT-50).”

Davis insists the small-pickup group could be revived, believing a vehicle of that size to be perfect for the youth market.

“I really think a single-spec, 2-wheel-drive, raised-suspension crew cab…good-looking, well-equipped vehicle would do very well,” he says. “It doesn’t have to have 24-in. wheels, but it can’t have 12-in. wheels.”

Mitsubishi Motors Corp. recently said will not renew a contract with Chrysler LLC to build its Raider small pickup, effectively killing the model in the U.S. Chrysler has been producing the Raider, a twin of the Dodge Dakota, for Mitsubishi at a plant in Warren, MI.

cschweinsberg@wardsauto.com