By on October 26, 2009

Too little too late? (courtesy:edmunds)

It’s not an academic question: if your answer is yes, Mazda has a $1.1B share offering it wants you to participate in. Now that Ford has reduced its stake in Mazda, the Japanese automaker is finding itself short on all kinds of hybrid and EV development. In fact, Mazda’s planned offering will dilute Ford’s share even further, to 11 percent. Automotive News [sub] reports Mazda’s plan is to use the money to improve fuel economy by 30 percent by 2015 mainly by improving its internal combustion engines, gradually adding electric components such as a hybrid system. However, isn’t promising to offer a first hybrid (let’s pretend, as most of the world has, that the Tribute Hybrid never happened) by 2015 a bit like a TV company finally offering a flat screen within the next five years? Has Mazda dallied to long with hydro-rotary nonsense, or is Mazda’s Hail Mary worth betting on?

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

37 Comments on “Ask the Best and Brightest: Can Mazda Catch Up on Hybrid Tech?...”


  • avatar

    Ooo, a ford escape hybrid re-badge, how…dreadfully boring. I really love the re-badged Land Rover equivalent that somehow manages to sell at a premium. Buyer beware, or at least be-awake.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    They shouldn’t bother with hybrid anything.

    They should take a page from the rotary engine handbook and be a little different, and consider Ford’s reduced holding a good thing for Mazda’s distinctive character.

  • avatar
    the duke

    I drive a Mazda3 right now. I love it. For me, Mazda’s plan is great. I’d love more efficient, less complicated (compared to hybrids) powertrains. So Mazda will likely have a repeat customer.

    Unfortunately (for Mazda), based on the success of the Prius, my thinking accounts for a small percentile ranking.

    Here’s hoping for Prius battery pack failures en masse soon, so Mazda’s plan is adopted by all.

  • avatar
    Mr Carpenter

    I read today at lunch (at some car website or the other – sorry to be “disloyal” TTAC but I don’t only stop in here for car information) and it said that Mazda was strongly considering diesels for North America.

    That may make sense, either instead of or in addition to gasoline hybrids, though Honda apparently just gave up the idea and made it official last week (diesel cars in America, that is).

  • avatar
    Shogun

    Didn’t Mazda develop hydrogen RE engines? I’m pretty sure these will serve as an alternative.

  • avatar
    Dragophire

    Why bother with developing their own when everyone else has one..BMW is looking to sell its part of the duel mode hybrid.. I say low ball BMW and get the tech for that and apply it to their entire line at once..This will help cut cost..I realize that the dual mode is expensive to apply but if you add it to every vehicle that you make then I think it will help drive down price.

  • avatar
    Richard Chen

    At the Tokyo Motor Show, Mazda introduced their upcoming lineup of small displacement, direct injection “Sky” piston engines. They’re touted as being 15% and 20% more efficient than their current Mazda gas and diesel counterparts respectively. Combine that with a cheap but effective start/stop battery system or even a mild hybrid, and they’ll be close to that 30% improvement.

    As for full hybrids, that’s a stretch – but we’ll see how they do and I suppose they could license Ford technology. Mazda’s US lineup isn’t exactly known for its fuel stinginess, so any improvement would be welcome.

  • avatar
    foolish

    I’m pretty sure that Mazda has diesels around the rest of the world. Bring us the 2, bring us some diesels, get great gas mileage and leave the hybrid mess to the companies that have already taken that on.

  • avatar
    Demetri

    Forget about Hybrids. You’ll never catch up. Reduce weight and improve efficiency of your ICEs. It will fit better with you zoom-zoom brand image anyway. If it’s absolutely necessary to make bigger gains in efficiency, give clean diesels a try. In the long term; make the jump to pure EVs if necessary. It’s a much simpler technology that will be easy to switch to if the batteries are able to get where they need to be.

    Drop the trucks and SUVs. That would help your CAFE average, right? They aren’t zoom-zoom, and I don’t think you’re making money on them, because I keep seeing them with huge rebates on the hood. It’ll be better for the brand, anyway.

    Also, there is no way that you’re making money off of the rotary. RX-8s are going for invoice plus 5k on the hood. The reliability problems are real; you’ve put an extended warranty on the engine to keep people happy and it’s costing you even more money in replacements. Just drop the rotary; you don’t have the money to play around.

    I expect the 2 to be pretty efficient once it gets here. It only weighs about 2200 lbs. Make the interior nicer during the 2010 refresh (the radio/hvac panel looks really cheap for one, and I’d like a full sized tach). It’d be pretty cool if you could send some of the 2-door models over as well, because they look hot. Also, I noticed that you have a version of your 1.5l that makes 130hp. This would make an awesome optional engine for the 2. You can have my money today if you decide to offer a 130hp 2door 2 (and thanks for listening when I said that I wanted the 2 over here in the survey you sent me for my 3).

  • avatar
    PeteMoran

    …. my thinking accounts for a small percentile ranking …. Here’s hoping for Prius battery pack failures en masse soon ….

    Pride in Stupidity.

  • avatar

    @Richard Chen: Exactly. I was going to cite the Sky engines also.

    If anything cool can be done with an engine, Mazda is one of the companies that can do it.

    I-stop alone should be a freaking godsend for commuters.

    .
    btw, still don’t understand why all engines aren’t DI already.

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    Demetri has it right. Mazda can achieve 30% improvement in mileage/emissions just improving current ICE technology. Spending money to catch up with Toyota in hybrids is a losing proposition — just ask BMW, MB, GM, and Honda.

  • avatar
    PeteMoran

    @ willman

    …. still don’t understand why all engines aren’t DI already.

    That’s an interesting observation. Perhaps it has to do with the way the IP is licensed. I know Orbital Engine Company (of Australia) make their version extremely expensive and enforce their DI patents very aggressively.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    Mazda is too small to compete effectively. End of story.

    The cost of entry into the market goes up with each new generation of technology and it takes a very large company with significant share in several major markets to play the game. Mazda is at best a second tier player in every market in which it competes. Mazda failed as an independent company once before, which is how Ford got involved in the first place. Mazda has survived in recent years only because of extensive platform sharing, shared engineering costs and shared production. As a stand alone company Mazda is doomed.

    “They should take a page from the rotary engine handbook and be a little different, and consider Ford’s reduced holding a good thing for Mazda’s distinctive character.”

    Mazda’s commitment to the rotary engine is what nearly put them out of business last time.

    “At the Tokyo Motor Show, Mazda introduced their upcoming lineup of small displacement, direct injection “Sky” piston engines. They’re touted as being 15% and 20% more efficient than their current Mazda gas and diesel counterparts respectively.”

    I would bet a lot of money that the “Sky” engines are simply Mazda’s version of the Ford EcoBoost designs. Given the close ties between Ford and Mazda, at least until recently, Ford and Mazda engineering teams probably both contributed to that effort. Ford and Mazda presently share a family of four cylinder engines which evolved from Mazda designs and a family of V-6 engines which evolved from Ford designs.

  • avatar
    CarPerson

    Hybrid technology is racing towards being a commodity. Mazda should be able to buy it on the open market with only a moderate investment.

  • avatar
    spyspeed

    Could inertia flywheel energy storage be marketed as rotary technology?

  • avatar
    Via Nocturna

    @Demetri

    A very enthusiastic +1 on a Mazda2 hot hatch.

  • avatar
    mazda4life

    Fiat almost died last decade. Look how great it is as a car company today. Yes, Mazda may be small, but technology is never meant to become any boundary that limit revolution and evolution, including breakthroughs. Small minds will think that Mazda will fail. Yes hybrids by Toyota is in the spotlights right now, but tomorrow’s technology will mostly come from other Asian countries, which include China. How do we ever know if Mazda will team up with a Chinese company, and why did Warren Buffett bought into a Chinese EV car maker in September 2008? Possibility of outcomes, especially if it involve technology, can be unlimited. Meanwhile, hybrid technologies are only a transition to the future generations of pure electric vehicles from gasoline only vehicles. There are lots and lots of rooms for creativity and experiment before a generally accepted technology that will be common enough and economical enough for every driver in this planet.

  • avatar
    Mrb00st

    sad as it is, i was utterly unaware of the existance of a Tribute Hybrid. Now, I can spout the torque numbers of the MazdaSpeed3 or the weight distribution of the MX-5 at will, but I was entirely unaware there was a Hybrid Tribute. Perhaps this says something. People who buy/like Mazda’s don’t care about hybrid this and hydrogen that. Perhaps they should actually think about who buys their cars before jumping on the Hypbrid bandwagon

  • avatar
    no_slushbox

    +1 John Horner

    What’s especially rediculous is the people who talk about how they love Mazda’s individuality, and then talk about how they drive some FWD car like a Mazda 3, which is just a Euro Focus.

    My daily driver right now is a ’97 Miata, and I know that car wouldn’t exist if Ford didn’t save Mazda from the abyss.

    The current Miata is a brilliant car, but the RX-8 is the kind of stubborn stupidity that will kill Mazda. If Mazda is smart is will start selling its one unique platform, the Miata/RX-8, to other companies to fulfill niches.

    An RX-8 platform with an S2000 engine could give Honda the first decent Acura worth owning since the NSX. It could also give Toyota an alternative to bastardizing the nose heavy, weak rear suspensioned Impreza into an ae86.

    But even in the niche categories Mazda has tough competition. No Miata yet has been as good to drive as the MR2 Spyder (I’ve driven all the Miatas, I own one, and I owned a Sypder).

    And Hyundai’s $22,000 6-speed I4-turbo Genesis Coupe makes the RX-8 look like a gas guzzling, questionable relibility mess. Actually the RX-8 already looked like that, the Genesis just negates any reason for it to exist. Don’t forget the $25,000 306HP V6 Genesis, still significantly better mileage than an RX-8, and cheaper, although I do prefer the turbo-4.

    To be fair the turbo-4 Genesis weighs a whole 200 pounds more than the RX-8 (~7%, and it’s not in the nose, it’s in the 5 extra inches of wheelbase), and the V6 version a whole 300 pounds more.

    Hopefully Mazda can find a good partner, or at least stay close enough to Ford to keep platform sharing. It will be a sad world without the Miata.

    And the Prius is a pretty sweet car. Probably the best commuter car one can buy. A good used Prius and a good used Miata can be had for the price of a new, compromised, FWD, Ford platform sharing Mazda.

  • avatar

    That Mazda in the pic is not a hybrid, just a tribute.

  • avatar
    Richard Chen

    @Mrb00st: there were only 100 or so Tribute Hybrids built, all sold in California

    @no_slushbox: I used to have a Miata, but I needed a daily driver that could hold the whole family on occasion -> Mazda5

  • avatar
    Boff

    Comparing the Genesis Coupe to the RX-8 is like comparing the Tiburon to the Integra Type R.

    I’m a fan of the rotary, so I hope Mazda can find a way to make it more competitive on power, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see them drop it. Apparently the 16X program is delayed. All that might be needed to seal its fate is another gas price spike…

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Mazda’s image is performance-oriented. Why chase greenies? Toyota’s got that one sewed up. Make their entire line of cars with DI engines, fix the 3′s styling, and roll with it.

    They’re a niche player, but it’s a good niche, and unless VW suddenly gets its act together, it’s pretty much theirs alone. I’d build on that strength versus diluting their brand character with hybrids.

  • avatar
    Martin Schwoerer

    Hydrogen is no-go. Ballard abandoned that ship (what I mean is, hydrogen for passenger cars) quite some time ago. Hydrogen is a good project for getting public-sector money to work on a long-term project, but for nothing else. We can discuss hydrogen all day but until a major player says it will be economical within a five-year timeframe, I don’t see the point.

    Rotary has no potential as the main means of propulsion for road vehicles since fuel economy is a unsolved issue. What I would advise Mazda to do however, is to put more effort on developing a Wankel range extender package for serial hybrids. I hope it is not too off-topic for me to post a link to an article I wrote elsewhere about range-extender options:
    http://www.evworld.com/article.cfm?storyid=1767

  • avatar
    Lumbergh21

    I for one sure hope Mazda can survive. I’ve owned two, including my current daily driver. Count me in the “Who Cares” camp if Mazda can develop hybrid drive trains. Through their add campaigns and recent offerings, most people identify them as the producers of peppy cars that are the most fun for the money in each segment in which they compete. Mazda should continue to cultivate that reputation by offering lighter cars with better balance and handling than the competition and acheive improvements in weight and mileage through improvements in the IC engines that they offer. A small 130 hp engine in a light car (~2000 lbs) should offer loads of fun. The size of the engine should allow for good weight distribution and fuel mileage. Combine that with a light responsive chasis and suspension and you have the definition of zoom-zoom. Leave the hybrid technologies to the others. With continued improvements to battery technology, a small roadster or compact people mover that Mazda would already be making in my scenario would be the perfect base for an electric car in the future, when all electric cars are finally viable.

  • avatar
    the duke

    @PeterMoran:

    Pride in Stupidity.

    I think you’re trolling, but I’ll give a nice response.

    Mazda3 (with the 2.0L four, M/T) is currently rated at 33mpg highway. A 30% improvement would make it 43mpg highway, better than the Insight. City mileage wouldn’t quite be there, but you also wouldn’t be buying several thousand dollars worth of batteries and their related industrial waste.

    As an mechanical engineer, I like simple solutions and hybrids have never struck me as such. Improving the efficiency of IC engines (SI and DI) and reducing the weight of vehicles (batteries aren’t light if you haven’t noticed) is just as viable as hybrids. I prefer the former. How is that stupid?

  • avatar
    PeteMoran

    @ the duke

    I think you’re trolling

    How then would you describe wishing Prius batteries fail for their owners?

    As an mechanical engineer, I like simple solutions and hybrids have never struck me as such.

    Mechanical engineers that understand Hybrid Synergy Drive do not describe the Prius as “complicated”. At least not the ones I’ve worked with, only the ones from other car companies mostly.

    Given Toyota’s design goals, they use words like “envy”, “elegant”, “striking”, “perfect combination”, “balanced compromise” and “I wish it were my idea”.

    Improving the efficiency of IC engines (SI and DI) and reducing the weight of vehicles (batteries aren’t light if you haven’t noticed) is just as viable as hybrids.

    I agree there is plenty to do on weight, but “just as viable”? How would you limit the wasteful ICE acceleration phase and capture braking energy in your design?

    On weight issues, do you propose all-aluminium (or carbon fibre) cars? How expensive is that?

    BTW, the Prius battery pack penalty (over an otherwise required lead-acid battery) is ~90lbs.

    Haters are crying to their mammas that Prius’ are; efficient, popular and extremely reliable and a decent sized vehicle to go with it.

  • avatar
    HalfMast

    “Mazda is too small to compete effectively. End of story.”

    I’m thinking the opposite. A small company like this can move much faster in product development. But if they want to “catch-up” to everyone, they should just go out and buy someone else’s (Ford’s) tech. If they want to be a real player, they need to make a significant advancement in a different direction than anyone else.

    I think there’s a real possibility with the rotary. They’ve been saying that the next-gen rotary is more powerful and more fuel efficient. Add that to the fact that it is already a light-weight and low rotational intertia motor and they have a significantly different platform from which to develop new tech. The low intertia and high rev charactoristics could be a fantastic match to electric motor & generation tech.

    By the way, for those looking to beat-up on Mazda, I think you need to look at their sales respective to company size. In my mind, they have succeeded at the model that Pontiac failed at. There are no Corvettes or GT-R’s in this brand, but some good niche products and some strong performance charactoritics in their main-stream designs.

  • avatar
    BDB

    The first thing Mazda needs to do is deep six the anime-style design language it is putting on its new cars. That style ruins otherwise great vehicles.

  • avatar
    TEXN3

    Mazda should focus on efficiency with incremental changes (DISI, iStop) that are cost-effective to produce and maintain during the life of the vehicle. The SKY engines are a great start.

  • avatar
    alex_rashev

    Actually, a direct-injection rotor-motor mated to a Synergy drivetrain would be a pretty nice machine. IIRC the Wankel can be very efficient, but the efficiency band is not as wide as that of a piston engine.

    Combine the world’s simplest modern car engine, a fuelling system that removes all of its significant drawbacks, and the world’s simplest, most efficient automatic transmission, throw it in a Mazda6, and the world is at your knees. Reliable, efficient, FUN machine for the family man.

  • avatar
    jkross22

    @Pete,

    Haters are crying to their mammas that Prius’ are; efficient, popular and extremely reliable and a decent sized vehicle to go with it.

    I think the Prius is ugly and has an awkward interior, but get why others love it. But you have to acknowledge one the reasons that car has haters, and it has little to do with the car itself. When the Prius first was released, the initial large group of buyers were a vocal bunch with definitive views of themselves and those that didn’t chose to buy what they bought.

    I would guess the typical Prius buyer has changed significantly from the car’s first iteration, but the reputation remains to a lesser degree.

  • avatar
    carguy

    Mazda should stay away from the Prius market. The geeky hybrid tech market is a niche market of people who not so much want to save money on gas but who want to make a statement about doing their part in what they perceive to be our greater collective environmental responsibility. Nothing wrong with that (although the environmental advantages are debatable) but the market simply isn’t big enough to support every manufacturer chasing this niche.

  • avatar
    Luke42

    I’m a Prius driver, but I love the looks of the Mazda 3, and I like the Mazda 5. But there’s nothing interesting under the hood — another boring gasoline-powered normally aspirated engine won’t be in my future. I’m unlikely to buy any car that isn’t a diesel, a hybrid, an electric, or that doesn’t get exceptionally awesome mileage. AWD would be nice, too, though that does create a mileage tradeoff.

    So, if Mazda would produce a car that got 50mpg and/or a car had something really innovative under the hood, I’d seriously consider one.

  • avatar
    the duke

    @PeteMoran:

    How then would you describe wishing Prius batteries fail for their owners?

    I don’t actually wish for battery facts to fail on people, that was jest. Don’t take everything on the internet seriously.

    At least not the ones I’ve worked with, only the ones from other car companies mostly.

    Given Toyota’s design goals, they use words like “envy”, “elegant”, “striking”, “perfect combination”, “balanced compromise” and “I wish it were my idea”.

    That’s quite a love fest. Can you come clean? Do you work for Toyota?

    I agree there is plenty to do on weight, but “just as viable”? How would you limit the wasteful ICE acceleration phase and capture braking energy in your design?

    I’m not sure exactly what you mean by “wasteful ICE acceleration phase.” You mean the running of the ICE? Insisting on reducing the running of a engine and regenerative braking means you are looking at this purely through Hybrid glasses. There are heat losses from batteries as well, not to mention getting the electricity to the vehicle.

    Fiat’s Multi-Air DI, BMW’s valvetronic, or a DI diesel, use no intake throttles to reduce pumping losses, a significant loss in traditional SI engines. Combine this with stop/start technology. The weight penalty of the Hybrid is not just the battery pack but the electic motor as well. I can’t find the weight of these systems, but the weight differnce between a corolla and a Prius is ~220lbs according to Toyota’s website.

    Case in point: VW’s Golf Bluemotion available for sale in Europe.

    http://green.autoblog.com/2009/07/06/volkswagen-golf-bluemotion-detailed-available-for-order-in-uk/

    I don’t hate the Prius, per se. But its not the only “proper” path to reduced energy consumption as some would make it out to be.

  • avatar
    PeteMoran

    @ the duke

    Do you work for Toyota?

    No, I don’t work for Toyota. My multinational employer has contracts with parts of Toyota and Hino in different regions, but I myself have only ever worked on a Hino contract.

    I’m not sure exactly what you mean by “wasteful ICE acceleration phase.” You mean the running of the ICE?

    No, I mean when the engine is at it’s least fuel efficient which is most of the time out of a tight band, and especially from idle for the period of first acceleration a car needs. If you can suppliment or reduce that phase (perhaps with energy recovered elsewhere) you make a sizeable gain.

    I can’t find the weight of these systems, but the weight differnce between a corolla and a Prius is ~220lbs according to Toyota’s website.

    If you compare the Camry 2.4L (3304lbs) and Camry Hybrid (3638lbs) you can get a good idea. I’m not sure if there are other trim level differences.

    I don’t hate the Prius, per se. But its not the only “proper” path to reduced energy consumption as some would make it out to be.

    Fair enough, however it’s a perfectly valid approach if one of your goals is to capture otherwise wasted energy.


Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Subscribe without commenting

Recent Comments

  • Re: While You Were Sleeping: July 15, 2014

    thelaine - That would be horrible. Please reconsider.
  • Re: 2015 Opel Corsa Revealed

    TMA1 - Check out the Astra coupe that was sold here as a Saturn a few years ago. Very similar.
  • Re: Toyota May Kill V6 Camry

    MBella - This is the way things are going with CAFE. Every 2-2.5L naturally aspirated 4 cylinder wil be replaced by 1.4-1.6L turbos. V6s are going to be replaced with 4 cylinder...
  • Re: 2015 Opel Corsa Revealed

    CoreyDL - And Vauxhall!
  • Re: EPA Mandates Real-World Testing For All Automakers

    bumpy ii - Traditionally, 3/4 ton trucks and SUVs had a GVWR of 7,500 pounds, so that was set as the cutoff for fuel economy ratings. The thinking was...
  • Re: EPA Mandates Real-World Testing For All Automakers

    thelaine - But…but Landcrusher…I happen to think we don’t need a massive, wasteful, expensive, power-mad, business destroying, taxmoney...
  • Re: 2015 Opel Corsa Revealed

    CoreyDL - Speaking of things which won’t age well – that seat fabric pattern. And that kink in the coupe version in horrible black plastic, which makes the whole rear...
  • Re: While You Were Sleeping: July 15, 2014

    Vulpine - Yeesh! I’m glad to see news about the auto industry, but today’s writers are really hurting this board. The prejudicial, belligerent style of...
  • Re: Junkyard Find: 1986 Buick Somerset

    28-Cars-Later - Years back my old mechanic had an entire steering column from an Olds Ninety Eight sitting upright near his desk and I inquired. He had a customer with a...
  • Re: Toyota May Kill V6 Camry

    brettc - After reading the headline I realized that Toyota has virtually no turbo charged engines in any of their North American lineup. I thought maybe the FR-S had a turbo but...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Staff

  • Authors

  • Brendan McAleer, Canada
  • Marcelo De Vasconcellos, Brazil
  • Matthias Gasnier, Australia
  • Tycho de Feyter, China
  • W. Christian 'Mental' Ward, Abu Dhabi
  • Mark Stevenson, Canada
  • Faisal Ali Khan, India