Op-Ed: Mazda Doesn’t Get It, & Won’t Live Past 2030

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Last week, Mazda unveiled an all new multi-valve inline 6-cylinder internal combustion engine. An engine that, the company hopes, will find its way under the hood of a real-wheel drive successor to its front-wheel drive Mazda 6 sedan that will draw inspiration from the Mazda Vision concept car shown here. It’s a good-looking car, and a classically styled, long-hood, short-deck sporty sedan that combines Mazda’s well-earned reputation for building high-value, high-enjoyment cars with a bespoke inline 6-cylinder engine would certainly be an exciting prospect for any car enthusiast … twenty five years ago, at least. And that, dear friends, is the problem I’d like to address today: Mazda doesn’t get it.

Mazda Vision Concept
Mazda Vision Concept, image courtesy of Mazda

To clarify, I’m not saying that Mazda doesn’t know how to build quality machines. Far from it. Nor am I saying that Mazda can’t build a good-looking car. Indeed, one glance up at the Vision concept — let alone the stunning Mazda 3 hatchback that looks more like an Alfa Romeo than anything you’ll find in an Alfa Romeo dealership these days — will tell you that’s not the case. What I am saying, though, is that Mazda has no idea how to build cars for the coming decade, and this new engine announcement fairly proves it.

Before we go too far down the rabbit hole, let’s talk about Mazda’s engine reveal. Mazda revealed three engines together. The first is the inline-six we mentioned first. The second is a new 4-cylinder. The third is that same 4-cylinder architecture, but in a PHEV layout. So, OK– Mazda is looking at hybrids, but here’s the crazy part. In the translation of the accompanying text, Mazda says that it’s committed to developing “powertrain: in-line 6-cylinder engine (gasoline / diesel / X),” and that it will “work on … electrification: plug-in hybrid / 48V mild hybrid.”

In 2020, with shares in anything with even a whiff of EV credibility skyrocketing and a battery-electric future of the passenger car seemingly carved in stone by California and the UK, it is shocking to hear about a car company committing its resources to not just internal combustion– but diesel. F*cXing. Die. Sel. (!)

The Future of Mazda
The Future of Mazda, image courtesy of Mazda

That’s not me seeing what I want to see for the sake of proving my point, either. As recently as the 2018 LA Auto Show — well after VW’s dieselgate fiasco — Mazda’s managing executive officer of Powertrain development, Ichiro Hirose, was quoted saying, “actually for the diesel engines, we are also continuously working on that in order to achieve the ideal diesel engine. Especially these days, SUVs are quite popular — that means vehicles are bigger and heavier, for those types of vehicles, in terms of reducing CO2, diesel engines still have the advantage (over EVs) … [we have] no plans to phase out diesel.”

So, yeah, that’s shocking.

What’s even more shocking, maybe, is that these already antiquated views of how to build and successfully sell cars in 2020 aren’t even for 2020. Despite being wheeled out for a photo-shoot, Mazda’s new inline-six DIESEL internal combustion engine is still, as of this writing, several years away.

The first car expected to get the new engine is, as I mentioned already, the next-generation Mazda 6 sedan. Despite the basic design of that car being nearly 8 years old already, it’s unlikely that Mazda will offer a substantial redesign of the 6 before MY2023. It’s even more unlikely, still, that an updated 2023 Mazda 6 will be available from launch with the all-new engine.

So, what does that really mean for you and me as consumers? Well, even if you wanted to buy a new, rear-wheel drive, diesel-powered Mazda 6 sedan you’ll probably have to wait another two or three years. And, even then, you’ll have to move fast to buy it, because you won’t be able to after 2030, or 2035 if it even comes to the US at all.

Mazda Knows it Won’t Live Past 2030

Hate to See You Leave but Love to Watch You Go, image courtesy of Mazda

That’s a lot of set-up and general complaining, sure. And don’t get me wrong, I fully embrace Mazda’s desire to bring back the rotary engine as a range-extender for its PHEVs. Still, that all seems to be a niche enterprise for Mazda, which seems to have farmed out any further hybrid development to Toyota, anyway, in case you’d forgotten about the two companies’ American JV project that saw Mazda giving Toyota a 5% stake in its business in exchange for access to Toyota’s hybrid know-how.

Which basically translates to the following: Mazda isn’t even developing the “new” hybrid engines it showed last week, and doesn’t seem to be seriously developing any cars that it’s going to be able to sell in Europe past 2030 or in the US past 2035, tops.

And that, dear readers, is sad. It’s sad to me, anyway, and not just because I count a few Mazda dealers who are investing millions of dollars into new “Retail Evolution” Mazda dealerships that are going to deliver next-generation levels of premium customer service to — well, that’s unclear, isn’t it? I mean, you can’t have customers if you don’t have a product to sell them, and Mazda doesn’t seem to be burning the midnight oil diesel to try to have EVs ready for launch in 10 years’ time. That seems to sort of imply that the company doesn’t really care about being around past 2030, doesn’t it?

It does to me, anyway. What about you guys? Do you think Mazda will see the light and leverage the lightweight know-how it showed in the development of its FD3S RX-7, along with its relationship with Toyota, and bring something to market that’s actually worth buying just in the nick of time? Or, and I think this is more likely, do you think Mazda will just become another Toyota sub-brand, like Scion, that will slowly fade away from the automotive scene? Scroll on down to the comments and let us know.

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