A weak yen and a slew of new models has Mazda within sight of profitability. With Mazda heavily dependent on exports, the yen’s 16 percent decrease in value relative to the U.S. dollar could not have come at a better time for Mazda, as it readies a whole slate of new products for sale.
If you were to read certain outlets, you may have the mistaken impression that Mazda is making a move upmarket. More than one industry gadfly took Mazda CEO Takashi Yamanouchi’s assertion that he wants to see Mazda become a “premium” brand as evidence of managerial incompetence. How could the world’s last independent auto maker have the gall to gun for the Germans and upscale Japanese marques when they are currently a bit player in the global auto sector?
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.
As dismissive as I tend to be of the internet product-planning brigade, their constant cries of “Bring rear-drive, V8 full-size Aussie sedans to America” may have some credibility – the market for these cars in Australia seems to be going teats up, with SUVs and small cars taking their place.
Mazda makes fun cars. Too few car buyers care. Mazda has been losing buckets of money. What to do? Mazda is betting that a focus on fuel economy without going hybrid will reverse their fortunes without costing them a fortune. To deliver big mpg gains, and further enhance the driving experience as well, the folks in Hiroshima have creatively re-engineered conventional engines, transmissions, suspensions, and body structures, with an emphasis on light weight and improved efficiency. But talk is cheap. Do Mazda’s “SKYACTIV” innovations actually deliver?
One of the constant dangers for your humble TTAC correspondent is drifting away from gimlet-eyed and ruthless objectivity towards developing a soft spot for a particular manufacturer. Lord forbid you should ever start becoming an “advocate”.
Should such tendencies emerge, one of our larger and hairier Senior Editors will show up on the front stoop bearing a large boat oar emblazoned with “Integrity” and begin beating you about the ears in the manner of the berserker school-master from Flann O’Brien’s An Beal Bocht. Leaving aside semi-obscure references to mid-century Irish literary satire for the moment, there’s one company for which I’d cheerfully risk the aforementioned major head trauma: Mazda.
Japanese customers can now buy the facelifted Mazda3 with its fuel-efficient SkyActiv technology. Except that it’s called Axela in Japan and has the steering wheel on the wrong side. Pretty much everything that needs to be said about the car already has been. If you missed it, here is the English version of the Japanese press kit. (Now how is that for service?) Mother of all Mazda3 picture collections follows.
Here’s an open secret: the Mazda3 is the auto-journo’s cop-out. “Hey,” inquires the prospective punter, “I’m actually kinda/sorta in the market. What do you recommend?” Nine times out of ten, the sporty little ’3 is gonna get a plug. Tenth guy wants a truck.
Now around here, obviously that’s not the case. Ask the TTAC boys what you should buy and Jack Baruth is going to punch you in the face and sleep with your wife, Sajeev Mehta will get a far-away look in his eyes thinking of all the non-running personal-luxury-coupe crap-cans he could add to his stable for the price of a new car, Bertel Schmitt’s going to give you a fascinating but interminable lecture on the nuances of some improbable menage a trois between Nissan, Geely and Fisher-Price, and me? Well, I’m new around here. Again.
Which is why I’m going to extoll me a little Zoom-Zoom.
Hi, love the site. I want a play car, but my wife and I have to agree on the purchase.
First, the details on our current situation. My wife drives a 2001 Suburban with 120,000 miles on it. I’m driving a 96 Cherokee 4wd with a 5-speed and 90k on the meter. We’re both happy with our daily drivers.
What I’d like to have is a car with, say, 50-75k miles on it, maybe built in the mid-2000′s, that we could take on trips. Perhaps something less thirsty for $4/gallon gas than the other two vehicles. And I’d like to stay in the $7,000 to $12,000 range, with a preference for the lower end.
I’ve got it narrowed down to a few contenders:
Most cars today avoid doing anything terribly well so as to avoid doing anything terribly badly. Then there are Mazdas. I love my Protege5. The agile chassis is a joy around town, BUT refinement and rust prevention were clearly not on the engineers’ to-do list. I love the RX-8 even more. Outstanding handling, surprising utility for a sports car, BUT the rotary is torque free and can drink a Corvette under the table. And then we have the MazdaSpeed3. You already know what I’m going to say about the MazdaSpeed3. But I’m going to say it anyway.
I love this column, great advice every time. That’s why I decided to ask for your opinion on something that’s been bothering me for a while. I have a ’07 Mazda3 hatchback with a 5-speed manual. Currently I’ve crested 23,000 miles and the car is still under warranty.
Ever since I bought the car (brand new), the shifter has been a bit notchy going from 1st to 2nd. It could also be smoother from 3rd to 2nd. Another thing that bugs me is that during our cold Chicago winters, until the car/transmission warms up, the shifter is very mushy and stiff. Otherwise, the car is a blast to drive.