By on August 24, 2010

If you are a carmaker, you need to have a hybrid and maybe even a plugin in the program, or at least on the schedule – whether your heart is in it or not. Even avowed petrol (and diesel) heads such as BMW and Volkswagen are dabbling with electrified powertrains – officially. Where are the last holdouts? In hybrid-country Japan.

“Mazda and Fuji Heavy are pursuing unique growth strategies as they continue to bank on refinements to the international combustion engine, in stark contrast with larger automakers that are rushing to roll out hybrid and electric cars,” reports The Nikkei [sub] to an aghast readership.

“Internal combustion engines have yet to reach their limit and there is still room for development,” said Seita Kanai, senior Mazda executive in charge of development. Mazda remains committed to improving traditional engines. Why? Because chasing electrons doesn’t make sense, they say.

“We believe electric vehicles that do not use an engine will likely account for just 5 percent of all cars in 2020,” said Kanai.

Fuji Heavy, maker of Subaru, is not working on batteries, but will commercialize a new flat engine designed for its midsize cars by the end of this year.

Should both need hybrid technology, they just buy it from Toyota. “Given their limited R&D budgets, they find it wiser to target the 95 percent of the market that is non-electric,” says The Nikkei.

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15 Comments on “Mazda And Subaru: “Long Live The ICE!”...”

  • avatar

    Should both need hybrid technology, they just buy it from Toyota

    In Subaru’s case, yes; in Mazda’s they’d be better to lean on Ford, with whom they share much already.

    Welcome to modern automobilia. Check your heterogeny at the door.

  • avatar
    Darth Lefty

    Mazda has modern engines but Subaru had better get the lead out. The STI and the V6 Mustang have about the same power but the STI gets 7 lower MPG

    • 0 avatar

      You can’t really compare two very different cars and use the results of comparison to judge the engine: you have to consider aerodynamics, gearing, driveline losses (a problem for AWD), relative real performance, emissions, etc.

      There’s too many differences elsewhere to authoritatively blame the engine.

    • 0 avatar
      John Horner

      Subaru’s insistence on putting AWD into every vehicle they make is ridiculous. It is OK for Jeep to offer 2WD versions of its vehicles, so why can’t Subaru?

      I like wagons and their cousins, so many Subarus should be on my shopping list. But, I have no need for the extra weight, complexity, up front costs, running costs and long term maintenance costs of AWD. Hence Subarus have staid off my test drive list over multiple purchases.

      Now if Subaru used their platform to build FWD, RWD and AWD offerings of certain vehicles, then they would have me and a lot of other people interested.

      Now that fuel economy is a front burner issue for many buyers, Subaru should set aside the AWD only sacred cow.

    • 0 avatar

      John, I respectfully disagree. Subaru is a niche automaker that is not trying to appeal to every car buyer and would be wise to continue to distinguish their brand from the mainstream brands like Ford and Toyota. If you try to compete with companies like Toyota and Ford on price alone, you will likely lose.

      By offering a unique product and focus on distinguishing their cars with fully time AWD, the boxer engine, longitudinal layout (for better balance), quality, safety and performance, they will continue to excel as they have been.

      Subaru is doing exactly what they should be doing as is evidenced by their sales performance as they are one of the few brands to actually increase sales while almost every other saw 20-40% declines in the past 2 years. I would argue that Subaru, unlike almost every other brand, is firing on all cylinders right now and if you’re not a buyer that’s quite alright.

    • 0 avatar

      What tnk479 said!

      Hard to argue with success in the market. Unless, of course, they make the next Impreza too big as they have just made the Legacy. Of course, they could give us the Legacy wagon back for those of us who don’t want to carry a step ladder to get our bikes down from the roof rack.

  • avatar

    “Fuji Heavy, maker of Subaru, is not working on batteries, but will commercialize a new flat engine designed for its midsize cars by the end of this year.”

    Is this in regards to the updated version of their 2.5 engine that has been resigned to accommodate a timing chain instead of a belt and driving 2 cams?


    As far as I know, there are no plans for direction injection for their boxer engine… yet.

    • 0 avatar

      Subaru has already showed off a DI version of the boxer in the Subaru Hybrid Tourer Concept:

      Also the boxer engine in the Toyota FT86, “D4S”, which is suppose to be a next-gen Subaru power plant that also has Toyota input, is also direct-injected.

      Future Subarus should all be DI in the next couple years.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    Subaru, Mazda and other small makers are going to find it increasingly difficult to do power train development at the level required to be a first tier global competitor. Mazda has survived this far thanks to the relationship with Ford, but Ford doesn’t seem to be in a hurry to share ongoing power train developments with Mazda at this point.

    Subaru has gone its own way for a long time, but economics and the relationship with Toyota seem to make it inevitable that at some point, Subarus will likely sport a Toyota based power train and platform.

    Suzuki has already gotten into bed with VW in order to address this strategic issue.

    Mitsubishi had been in bed with Daimler, but now is left drifting in the wind.

    Isuzu … never mind.

    • 0 avatar

      The theory behind Mazda/Ford was that Mazda would do all Ford’s small-engine development and, I think, most of the small-car work as well. Ford would do the bigger engines and larger vehicles.

      This worked, for a while, with the creaky Zetec’s replacement with Mazda’s MZR engines and the Mazda3/Focus/S40 effort. I’m not sure what happened recently, though, as the newer fours seems more advanced and restricted to Ford’s offerings. It seems like the platforms are becoming more Ford than Mazda, too. Perhaps Ford decided they can build a decent small engine and small car after all?

      I’m not sure where this leaves Mazda, but they, Suzuki, Subaru and Isuzu were, in theory, going to work as specialized development shops for technology the bigger makers couldn’t do (Mazda: small cars & engines; Subaru: AWD; Isuzu: diesel and small trucks; Suzuki: kei cars). The problem is that once you show your benefactor how to do the job, how would you stop them from doing it themselves the next time around?

    • 0 avatar

      One advantage Subaru has is engine commonality across products. The same naturally aspirated and turbocharged 2.5-liter engine is in the Impreza, Forester, Legacy, and the Impreza/Legacy based Outback wagons. From that one engine, they sell 200k+ vehicles a year in the US. I think they’ll be ok.

  • avatar

    Wait until they fall behind the curve and come crawling back?

    Mazda is taking its time, but its new Sky engines will be interesting. And Mazda has variable valve timing and direct injection on those small fours NOW. Ford is just starting to introduce direct-injection turbos.

    Isuzu used to be the “go-to-guy” for diesel… but GM is getting a lot of mileage (literally) from its European connections through GMDAT and Opel with VM Motori… which is better at making modern diesel systems (4JX1, thy legacy stings).

    Suzuki… I don’t know. But they’re strong, healthy, and have the Indian partners and possibly money to keep on developing their small powerplants.

  • avatar

    How Little some of you REALLY Know…MAZDA have already signed a Licensing Agreement with Toyota late last year, for their Prius II Hybrid Technology…Mazda are NOT using FORD.

    Mazda are also a ‘niche’ player and the ONLY car brand to offer 3 different Internal Combustion Engines, Petrol, Diesel and Rotary.

    Mazda has their NEW SKY Petrol and Diesel engines due for release next year Feb 2011 with 30% improvement in fuel consumption…with DI and Turbo.

    Mazda has also had Record Car sales Worldwide, the only Country slightly Dragging their feet is the USA…everywhere else up to 33% growth, the CX-7 has had 719% growth this year alone.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s still possible Mazda is using Ford’s technology; Ford itself signed licensing agreements with Toyota. If Mazda were to use the same system (which would make sense, given the commonality of platform and powertrain) they’d have to sign similar agreements.

  • avatar

    We have been buying Mazdas for over 15 years and have been extremely pleased with the vehicles.

    There was a time when our Toyotas and Hondas seemed a step above in quality and refinement, but as those companies have cut costs, content and corners in their recent products, Mazdas have improved to become equal or better than many of their competitors.

    Still, in the USA, for some reason they are not big sellers. I had one friend who really wanted a Miata, but didn’t even know it was a Mazda.

    I have never bought a Subaru as I don’t need AWD on my cars, but I am not a hybrid fan and am glad to see Mazda is continuing to develop new engine design, regardless of their partners. And as long as they continue to remain a smaller player I know I’ll be able to buy their vehicles at invoice prices with rebates or low financing.

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