The words “Mazda” and “premium” will be forever linked with the stillborn Amati brand in the mind of car enthusiasts. Cancelled at the 11th hour, Amati was supposed to be Mazda’s luxury brand that would go head to head with Infiniti, Lexus and Acura. All we got out of it was the Millenia.
With the launch of the 2014 Mazda6, the last independent Japanese auto maker will be attempting another move towards becoming a “premium” auto maker, though Mazda is not looking to compete with other luxury auto makers. According to Automotive News, company officials call their aspirations “Japan premium” (thankfully, this won’t join Skyactiv as their latest marketing moniker), but the motivation behind it seems simple; build cars more desirable than the other mainstream brands, but stay within that space.
The new Kodo design language, diesel engines, advanced active safety systems and strong build quality (Mazda ranked 4th in the latest Consumer Reports reliability study, behind Toyota, Scion and Lexus) will be the pillars of the new philosophy. The target is 400,000 units annually in the United States by 2016, up from 228,000 through October of this year.
As well regarded as Mazda’s cars may be by enthusiasts, they’ve never caught on with the wider public. The previous crop of cars may have been a joy to drive, but the gaping front ends and substandard interiors doomed them in a field filled with equally competitive Japanese and Korean entries. The CX-5 is a strong indicator that Mazda has figured things out, but the upcoming Mazda6 and Mazda3 have to be even stronger for consumers to even consider them over the usual Camry, Civic or Korean alternative.