By on December 3, 2009

There can be only one! (

For most of the last 20 years, Ford and Mazda have enjoyed a symbiotic relationship which worked quite well. Ford needed Mazda’s engineering and Mazda needed Ford’s volume to keep their profit margins. In short, everyone was happy. Then came the recession. Ford needed money and it needed it fast, so they mortgaged their logo, cut staff and closed factories. But curiously, Ford divested a huge chunk of Mazda which netted them, in the auto world, very little money. Ford reduced their 33.4% stake in Mazda to 13.4%, netting $540 million, but effectively losing Mazda. Not that Ford’s Mark Fields is worried.

Bloomberg reports that everyone’s favourite wideboy is Ford-focused. “For a lot of designing and engineering, we’re going to be focused on Ford,” Mark Fields said, “Our efforts will be focused on the Ford system, as opposed to relying on others such as Mazda.”. In other words, we’re on our own.

Trouble is, it needn’t be like this. Mazda CEO, Takashi Yamanouchi, has left the door wide open for Ford. “Right now, it seems both companies are going their separate ways, but in the future there is the possibility of both coming together again,” Yamanouchi said. “We’re sure there will come a time when we will need each other’s technology.”. In other words, we welcome Ford’s help. And they’re not the only people who know that.

“The reality is Mazda is too small to do it on their own,” said Aaron Bragman, auto analyst for IHS Global Insight, “Ford may have other options. They’ve got a European organization that is very good at developing small cars.” In other words, Mazda might want to start looking around for another partner.

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42 Comments on “Ford, Mazda Parting Ways On Product Development?...”

  • avatar

    So sad.  As much as I hate seeing FoMoCo on parts of my Miata, I know this was a good relationship for both.  Let’s hope Mazda can beat the odds and become an untethered juggernaut of quality, affordable, sporty, and desirable cars.  They’re so close already.

    • 0 avatar

      Why do you hate seeing FoMoCo parts on your Miata? From what I understand, the Miata is, and has been, best in its class. Sounds like Ford helped it get there.

    • 0 avatar

      Well, I own a Ford and a Mazda.  The Mk 1 Focus was brilliant at first until I realized they F’d things up when Americanizing it with subpar parts and re-engineering.  Can you say recall machine?  Then their customer disservice dept reared its ugly head.  So there’s a bit of distrust rooted in my impression of Ford.  That said, I should cut them some slack.  The Focus is still going after 172k.

  • avatar

    I hope it works out for Mazda.  They have always made the best Fords.  And while they don’t have huge market share in the US, they’re pretty high on the list in other places.  I was in Israel last month and there was a huge percentage of Mazdas there – probably more of them than any other brand.  Granted that Israel isn’t exactly a big car market, but I found it interesting to see what types of cars are popular in a country that doesn’t have a native auto industry.
    I’ve owned and loved Mazdas in the past, and would definitely buy one again.  Not too many brands I’ll say that about…

  • avatar

    ScottMcG is right. Mazda was better at building Fords than Ford was. I’d imagine that has got to sting Ford pride a bit. Of course, Ford Europe is also better at building Fords than Ford US is. Hopefully that will change. The Mondeo flopped as the Contour before, but I think the current one would make an excellent TSX competitor, if priced properly.

    Well, I keep rooting for Mazda. I love the fact that they are more adventurous than others in styling and trying to keep things sporty. Admittedly I think the new 3′s styling is brilliant and very Japanese.

  • avatar

    I think outsiders give Mazda more credit than they deserve in Ford Product Development.  Mazda’s best selling vehicle (Mazda 3) is on a Ford of Europe designed platform.  Yes Mazda worked extensively on the original Mazda 6 platform, but Ford has made many changes and Mazda ended up switching to the Ford modified version.  Ford has done most of the powertrain development and safety development. 

    I think Mazda is the one that is in trouble.

  • avatar

    I am not sure what all this really means.
    I kind of get the feeling they both understand they will be working together.
    Unless I see them suddenly separate the production lines (Mustang, Mazda6), I see them continuing to work together.
    Mazda really needs the co-mnfg and Ford really needs the combined tech.
    I don’t care what they say about the Ford Euro group…they mostly have design, NOT chassis.
    If I see it correctly, a ton of Ford Euro is Mazda tech.

    • 0 avatar

      “I don’t care what they say about the Ford Euro group…they mostly have design, NOT chassis. If I see it correctly, a ton of Ford Euro is Mazda tech.”

      Sorry, you don’t see this correctly.

      Make the same statement to the Ford chassis engineering guys sitting in Dunton and Merkenich, and I think they, in their numbers, will tell and demonstrate to you that you are uninformed.  Relative to Europe, Mazda contributed nil to Transit, Mondeo (EuCD), played a minority role in Focus (C1), and played a leading role in the Fiesta (B2xx).  Regards US, the Fusion (et al.)/Edge (et al.) platform(s) is(are) derived from Mazda’s J56 (and may have had a role in improving J56′s successor J61), but aside from the contributions noted in the Eu platforms being transplanted to the US, Mazda has had no significant role in the development of Ford’s current US portfolio.  Outside the US, the Thailand-built Ranger and Everest SUV ride on a long-in-the-tooth Mazda platform (will be replaced with the Ford-designed Global T6 platform in a couple of years.) That said, Global Ford adopted (with modifications) Mazda’s product development timeline and process to help get cars quicker to market with the need for fewer prototype build loops (this due to better compter design and simulations as well as more focused testing – and for those that think this will reduce quality, look to the Fusion.)

    • 0 avatar


      Thanks for the good information.
      Not sure if I really wanted to make it sound as if the majority of Euro build was Mazda, but you seem to inform us that its even less than thought.

      I always read the Euro Focus was the Mazda, just like the Volvo,
      If it is not, I was misreading.

      What I believe still is they are more entangled than most think.
      These is a lot of coengineering being done in the development of cars and their production…especially when they come down the same line.

      Thanks for the reality check.

  • avatar

    I don’t see why Mazda wouldn’t be able to do it on their own. Most parts come from outside vendors, and they have research facilities to develop their own products. Like the others have said, they have made plenty of good Fords, without any Ford intervention.

    • 0 avatar
      John Horner

      Mazda was at death’s door when Ford stepped in with money, technology and people. The disastrous all-in strategy with rotary engines in the 1970s nearly put Mazda on the scrap pile.
      In recent years, Mazda and Ford have completely shared engine development work. The current V-6s in Mazdas and Ford are derived from Ford base designs whilst the present four cylinder engines from both companies are developments of Mazda’s work.  Engine and transmission development work are monstrously expensive, which is why you see many companies sharing that work wherever possible.
      Mazda is not big enough to go it alone, and they know it.

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah, but they are not banking everything on Rotarys anymore. They needed the Ford money at the time, but not anymore.  As you said, the 4 cylinders are developed by Mazda themselves. Transmissions can be bought from suppliers like ZF.

    • 0 avatar

      I don’t think Mazda believes they have enough cash to develop new engines and tech.
      In fact, Yamanouchi is implying this in his remarks about the door staying open.
      This is dangerous and failure can kill a company.
      He knows it and Ford knows it.
      Both want togetherness. Besides, the entanglemant is very, very deep.
      The information shared between both is deep and binding.

    • 0 avatar

      Someone said it well years ago:

      “Mazda is too small to be big, too big to be small.”

      To keep up with the big boys (Toyota, Honda, Nissan – and even Nissan needed Renault to maintain this capability), Mazda needs a partner for scale.

      Mazda-”pure” platforms are the MX and RX.  Without Ford, or a replacement partner, Mazda would be hard pressed to renew its current portfolio with increasing features and reduced prices due to having no partner for design, sourcing, or production for it’s M2, M3, M5, M6, or light p/u, not to mention probably no chance of producing a D or E-segment vehicle again. 

      Mazda even exited the Medium Truck Segment (selling this to Isuzu) in order to be able to focus scarce resources on developing the Mazda3.

      Ford on the otherhand, was able to use Mazda as a) a production source for badge-engineered Fords on Mazda platforms sold outside Ford’s European and N. American markets, today this is less so, b) a channel to sell badge-engineered Mazdas on Ford platforms (B-Series, Navaho), c) a JV partner (AAI & AAT) to share capital investment expense and help fill production capacity), d) to share engine technology, e) to help balance engineering loads over time in US (just look at the C-segment in US, first Escort was US-engineered, 2nd-gen Mazda (as Ford put its NA engineers on other topics), then Focus came from EU.

      A break-up in this relationship, based on past history would not seem beneficial to either.  Ford kept enough skin in the game to be able to prevent competitors from being able to easily usurp Ford’s influence there.

      Regarding the divestiture of Ford’s equity in Mazda, Ford did this in the dark days of the crisis and draining coffers … but the way in which Ford handled this, looking for a way to widely disperse that equity amongst insurance and investment companies (and it was never clear to me whether this was due to a lack of buyers, or strategy, but I favour the latter) gave rise to the thought that Ford was trying to a) block any automotive competitors from buying into the Mazda game, b) open doors to Mazda to be able to get capital from its new non-automotive investors, c) leave open the possiblity to re-purchase the shares at some future point at a guaranteed premium (insurance companies like that kind of investment.)  In addition, IIRC, Ford’s 33% share of Mazda required Ford, under Japanese accounting rules, to carry Mazda on its balance sheet (this is why the President and key operating management became Ford people, and this is why those posts are slowly being refilled with Mazda people.)

  • avatar

    I like my Mazda 6 better than any other car I’ve owned.  I sure as hell hope they can keep cranking out good, sporty, affordable cars.

  • avatar

    Boy, that Fiesta makes that Mazda2 look like a dog.

    • 0 avatar

      Are they even from the same generation?

      That said, I prefer the looks of the Fiesta based on the LA auto show pix.

    • 0 avatar

      Because even though they share the same basic chassis, Mazda has been working hard on keeping their cars light.
      My 09 Mazda6 drives and feels completely different from the Fusion.
      The Mazda6 seems lighter. (the 4 cyl)
      And one hard slam of the doors shows this.
      Its not weak, but sounds tinnier(?).
      Mazda is really into less is more these days.

  • avatar

    OK, so when does the Euro-spec Mondeo come over?

  • avatar

    I hate to see this happen, I think it’ll be loss-loss for both companies. The Mazda-Ford alliance has always had a strange symbiosis in an industry where many companies try share-alike, but hardly ever get it right. Mazda is working on some pretty interesting stuff in start-stop technology, that Ford is probably going to want eventually, and Mazda is going to need Ford’s DI expertise. Its sad when cute couples break up.

    • 0 avatar

      Mazda was out first with DI and turbocharging with their Mazdaspeed 6 and 3 as well as CX7.  It actually makes me wonder where Ford got their Ecoboost tech from.  BTW, it didn’t really work for improving fuel economy for Mazda.

  • avatar

    One reason Ford sold off most of their Mazda holdings was because, as majority shareholder, they were liable for Mazda’s debt (I recall reading this somewhere). So, who wants to pay off someone else’s debts when you cannot pay your own, right?

    Also, I think there’s too much being read into what Fields is saying. Sure, Ford North America needs to ramp up its engineering capabilities –especially since there WAS a lot of reliance of Mazda and Volvo platforms. It makes sense to rebuild the design and engineering skills, since Alan Mulally is pushing for One Ford.

    I strongly suspect Ford and Mazda will continue to work together where it makes sense for both, such as in the Fiesta/Mazda 2 and Focus/Mazda 3.

  • avatar

    It’s not “probably” the most popular car in Israel, it’s the best selling car there for years in big margins, they sell the same amount of cars as the #2 and #3 on the list combined, that is Hyundai and Toyota, I go there once or twice a year and it always amazes me how difficult it is to find my rental Mazda3 in a sea of Mazda on any parking lot, even on the street.
    My first meeting with a Mazda was at the Costco parking lot, 2 nice girls offering a test drive on a Mazda 6 V6 in exchange of $20 cash card, why not? as soon as I start driving, the girl was telling me that I “should not hold back”, we are on the highway and I was going 85mph, it was a great introduction, after 3 yeas I bought myself a Mazda3 hatch that still put a smile on my face every time I drive it.
    I don’t see why Mazda can’t make it without Ford, they have some cars that are the best in their class, the Miata, RX8 and of course the best compact car that is the Mazda3.
    Now, about the picture above, if I’m in a market for a small car, I’m not so sure I would go for the one on the right, the Ford simply looks much better!

  • avatar
    George B

    Sad to read that Ford and Mazda are ending what appears to have been a successful relationship.  My impression is both Mazda and Ford of Europe are capable of doing good engineering work on small to midsize cars, but Mazda does a better job of making fun cars at a price Americans are willing to pay while European Ford cars aimed for a higher priced part of the market.
    If I remember correctly Mazda sales helped Ford meet their CAFE numbers.  Has Ford lost the ability to include Mazda cars in their averages for CAFE now that Ford ownership stake is smaller?

  • avatar

    HUH, Just to correct a “few guesses” made by the writer and other comments here…

    Mazda has designed ALL Ford’s platforms for the past few decades, Ford uses the Mazda 2 (Fiesta), Mazda 6 (Fusion), Mazda 3 (Focus) and many others over the years.

    Mazda have design studios and engineering in Germany, California, Japan, Thailand and China.

    THE ONLY reason Ford Sold off more of their Mazda Shares was because THEY needed the money…NOT Mazda, Mazda were NOT in Debt when the financial Crisis happened, in fact they were and are one of the few makers who were returning a profit before the GFC.

    Apart from the USA, Mazda are consistently in the TOP 3, sometimes #1 for long term reliability and customer satisfaction.

    The only reason they are not at the top in the USA is because of their Poor Retail Dealer Network, and US car owners mark down a car for having Squeaky Brakes, when in most cases it is their own fault, with bad braking habits and driving style.

    As for Engines…Mazda already have an ALL new ranges of 4 cylinder engines (that Ford Will NOT Get) the SKY series of petrol and diesel, with an ALL new Auto Transmission  from 2011.

    Mazda are the ONLY car maker to offer 3 totally different engines, Rotary, Diesel, and Normal bangers.

    Yes, Mazda reliance on the Rotary was “Top Heavy” back in the early 1970′s, it was NOT the Rotary that almost killed Mazda it was the Oil Crisis, there were MANY other makes that were in trouble (V8 engines), anyone that made and sold cars with higher gas mileage.

    Mazda even today would/will make the CAFE numbers for 2012 (whatever the date is).

    • 0 avatar

      Yes, Mazda reliance on the Rotary was “Top Heavy” back in the early 1970’s, it was NOT the Rotary that almost killed Mazda it was the Oil Crisis, there were MANY other makes that were in trouble (V8 engines), anyone that made and sold cars with higher gas mileage.
      I don’t really agree with that statement.  The decision to push the rotary did have a deleterious effect on the company’s bottom line for a variety of reasons.  One, the rotary returned poor mileage relative to its output.  If I recall from memory correctly, the rotary used a “thermactor” to clean up emissions.  This device required a rather rich mixture; hence the poor mileage.  (I’m sure if my memory is faulty the B&B will correct).  Two, unlike the V8s you mention, the rotary had oil consumption issues and early seal failures.  So, you had poor reliability and poor mileage.  The V8s of the period may have been down on power but had no problem lasting well past 100K without any issues.  All that said, Mazda does deserve credit for refining and improving the rotary over the years.  While it is not the engine for all applications, it does serve the RXs well.
      I am saddened to see the marriage between Ford and Mazda become meaningless.  Being that I still own a Ford/Mazda product after 15 years, I can attest to the products that were the result of  this joint venture.  Hopefully Ford will realize the value of Mazda (and Yamaha for that matter) and join forces in the future…

    • 0 avatar

      What are you talking about?
      Remember, it was Ford that came in with the cash Mazda needed to survive.

      And it’s only the Fusion or Edge that have the Mazda chassis.

      The FiveHundred/Taurus/Lincoln/Flex are Volvo.
      The Focus is OLD and everybdoy WISHES it was the Mazda3 chassis.
      The Mustang is from the Ice Age.
      The trucks…hell, does Mazda even make a truck for the trades?

      Now I don’t know much about the European cars, here in the USA it doesn’t seem like its all Mazda tech.
      And I don’t know WHO was really in charge of the Fiesta/Mazda2 development.
      It was a whole lot of everybody, I believe.

      And Mazda’s 3.7 was actually a modification of the 3.5 Ford, which Mazda didn’t want.
      I believe Ford placed in the top 10 Wards engines of the year 2 years ago.

    • 0 avatar

      Mazda has designed ALL Ford’s platforms for the past few decades, Ford uses the Mazda 2 (Fiesta), Mazda 6 (Fusion), Mazda 3 (Focus) and many others over the years.
      Not true.  The North American Focus is still Ford’s C170 platform which was a Ford designed platform.  The C1 platform that the current Mazda 3, Volvo S40 and European Focus ride on was a joint development between Ford, Volvo and Mazda.  The Taurus rides on the Volvo designed D3 platform.

    • 0 avatar
      John Horner

      The problem with the rotary engine is that it isn’t as fuel efficient as a traditional design. For a niche car like the RX-7 this can be tolerated, but not for mass market vehicles. All of the other Japanese car makers did very, very well in the post oil embargo era because they had highly fuel efficient vehicles to offer. Mazda, on the other hand, was flattened.
      The fact that Mazda still makes a few rotary engines is not an advantage over other automakers. There are solid technical reasons why everyone else abandoned that architecture.

    • 0 avatar

      The Ford Ranger is based off of the shared Ranger / B-series chassis that comes from Mazda. The old Focus is its own chassis, but only the United States still gets it.
      A whole lot of <i>global </i> Ford products are based on shared C-platform and Mazda6/626 architecture.

    • 0 avatar

      The Ford Ranger is based off of the shared Ranger / B-series chassis that comes from Mazda.

      The Ford Courier was a Mazda chassis.  The Ranger chassis is entirely a Ford design.

    • 0 avatar
      Bruce from DC

      Have to disagree about your diagnosis of Mazda’s ills in the late 1970s.  As an owner (from new) of a RX-2 rotary, I can say that, on a good day, that engine would give you 20 mpg on the highway at 60 mph.  For a small car, that’s pretty bad.  Pre-1973 oil shock, the rotaries other virtues outweighed its thirst for fuel.  When the secondaries of the 4-bbl carburetor kicked in at 4500 rpm, the engine pulled like a train all the way up to the 7000 rpm redline.  And at a time when just about every piston engine met emission requirements at the cost of driveability and performance, the rotary started every time the first time, no matter what temperature and had impeccable throttle response, albeit not much low-rpm torque.  That said, even maintained by the book, the seals in my engine were beginning to fail at 80K miles and the engine was showing all the signs of low compression.   The engine used oil by design (a small amount was injected into the combustion chamber) but oil use was hardly excessive.   Mazda’s basic problem was that, when the price of gasoline almost tripled in a matter of months and a 55-mph speed limit was imposed (and, initially, pretty strictly enforced) a 2000 lb. small sedan that got 20 mpg on the highway and much less in town was just not an attractive proposition, no matter how well it performed.
      In the US, at lest, Mazda tried to exist on the RX-2 and RX-3 sedans, followed by a somewhat larger rotary sedan called the “cosmo.”   Finally, the company relented and introduce a small, piston-engined  hatchback called the “GLC” (“great little car”!!) that was a success in the U.S.  But Mazda’s betting the company on the rotary engine really did just about kill the company . . . no doubt of that in my mind.

    • 0 avatar

      niky & trk2 have it only partially correct…

      As pointed out in my other post, there are two Ford Rangers and Mazda B’s afoot in the world, the NA/SA version based on the Ford PN150/1 platform of 1998, and the version for the rest of the world based on the Mazda platform (I forget the code and the launch year, but I believe it is older than the PN150 which is nearly a classic.)

  • avatar

    Basically correct… though the 2 liter plus range of four-bangers were heavily based on Ford’s own Duratecs and not Mazda’s woeful F-series (though the sub-2-liter engines are still heavily Mazda), and a Rotary is still a gasoline engine (well… hydrogen if you want it, but who wants it?)… and the Ford Five Hundred platform is basically a Volvo.
    I don ‘t think Ford and Mazda are going to part ways completely… there will still be a synergy of technology sharing. Mazda needs Ford, Ford needs Mazda. Without volume, you’ve got nothing.
    This is what some manufacturers are banking on with licensing / co-developing engines with Hyundai. I wonder if it galls the old guard at Mitsubishi to be buying engine development from a company that bought its first engines from them…

    • 0 avatar
      John Horner

      Every source I’ve been able to find says that for the 2005 model year, Ford switched over from the old Zetec based four banger to a unit derived from the Mazda MZR family.
      “In 2004, Ford dropped the development of their old 4-cylinder Zetec engines in favor of Mazda’s MZR 4-cylinder. Thus, 2005+ Duratec 4 cylinder engines are Mazdas. This includes the 2.0 liter Duratec 20 and 2.3 liter Duratec 23.”
      “While every other change aboard the 2005 Focus is evolutionary, the implantation of two new engines is radical surgery. Gone are the Ford-designed Zetec 2.0-liter engines and in their place are Mazda-designed 2.0- and 2.3-liter powerplants wearing the Duratec label. Shared with the Mazda3, these new Duratecs don’t differ much from the Zetecs in general specification; they’re still all-aluminum fours wearing DOHC heads with four valves over each combustion chamber. But Ford claims they’ll emit about 32-percent less noxious gases while delivering 24-percent more power and slightly better fuel economy.”

    • 0 avatar

      Most sources claim they’re all MZRs. But having personally seen these engines and having talked to those familiar with their innards, the bigger MZR four bangers are an entirely different engine family from the smaller ones.
      The small displacement MZRs are an evolution of the old Z-series engines, but the 2.0 and 2.3 are based on an entirely different architecture and share just about nothing with any previous Mazda engines. They’re based on Ford’s Duratec architecture primarily (where Ford’s 1.5  and 1.6 Duratecs are modified MZRs), though I think this architecture came from Ford’s European arm. Good thing. Mazda’s own 2-liter engine was a stroked-up 1.8 liter with terrible head-flow and weak internals, and couldn’t be upsized any further than that. The new engines are much better, much revvier and have less internal friction and better power production. The new 2.5 is particularly nice.

  • avatar

    I agree with what several others have said or suggested–I hope that Ford and Mazda continue to  work together.  It appears to me to have been a good thing for both parties as well as for us customers.  I’ve owned a couple of Mazdas and liked them a lot, but the dealer was terrible and I went elsewhere.  I’ve also owned a couple of Fords, and they were more questionable but they were also not part of the Mazda development chain.

  • avatar

    They own several world factories together (india, malaysia, etc).  I don’t think they have a choice but to work together.  At a point in time Ford really needed Mazda small platforms, etc. so the benefits gained by mazda from Ford (scale for purchasing, production and development costs) were offset.  Now that Ford had taken to designing the platforms (say what you want) the A (Ford and Fiat), B (Mazda and Ford), C (Ford, Volvo and Mazda) and EuCD (Ford, Volvo and Mazda) all in that order that balance no longer exists and Ford probably wants Mazda to pay it’s fair share.  Ford sold its stake in Mazda, b/c it’s ownership percentage required to Ford to show on its balance sheet and mazda isn’t exactly a profit machine.

    Long story short – Ford has learned what it needed to from mazda and volvo and come to the realization that both will never be more than marginal players so it’s cutting them loose and focusing on Ford.

  • avatar

    There sure seems to be a lot of “he said she said” about which company made the true value add to the cars we love.  Whatever the case, it sure as hell worked wonders for the Ford Ranger and Mazda3 in my garage.

    • 0 avatar

      Which Ranger, the Ford-based one, or the Mazda-based one?  If it was produced in MN, or S.America, it’s pure-Ford, if produced in Thailand, it’s Mazda-based with Ford tweaking.

  • avatar

    For what it is worth, the 2012 Fusion/Milan/MKZ will no longer be based on the Mazda platform, but will be moving to the EUCD platform (Mondeo), specifically it will be the CD4 platform.  It also seems that the US introduction of the refreshed CD4 platform will be 6-9 months earlier than the Mondeo (which will technically be 2012.5)

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