By on March 30, 2010

There is a new Japanese bride on the equivalent of the international auto business. It’s Mazda. Despite pronouncements that Mazda’s “strategic alliance with Ford will remain unshaken” (as uttered at a Monday press conference by Mazda Executive VP Masaharu Yamaki,) everybody who knows the business knows: The bloom is off the rose between Mazda and Ford. What’s more, Mazda is on the prowl to do some nampa with another potent partner. Who will it be?

Currently, all eyes are on Toyota. Last week, we reported that Toyota will sell Mazda the innards necessary to build a Prius-like Mazda hybrid. But Mazda doesn’t want an erector kit; they want to build the stuff themselves. So on Monday, Mazda announced it will get Toyota’s hybrid technologies under a license agreement. Says The Nikkei [sub]: “The deal, which allows Mazda to launch its own hybrid model as early as 2013, is the carmaker’s strategic response to its weakening ties with Ford Motor Co., which has reduced its stake in the Japanese company to about 11 percent from more than one-third.”

The former technological cooperation already has degraded down to mere “exchanges of information.” The information that is exchanged has no value. If an executive from Ford wants to attend a meeting at Mazda, the matters discussed must be carefully vetted beforehand and signed-off in advance. An outside vendor has better access to Mazda internals than Ford.

With both partners living in separation and under no-contact orders, “Mazda is now open to the idea of partnering with other automakers as a way to survive in the rapidly changing competitive landscape in the industry,” says the Nikkei.

The hybrid deal doesn’t mean the Mazda wants to marry Toyota. Mazda simply doesn’t want to spend a lot of money to develop hybrid models as long as hybrids only command a tiny market share, said a top Mazda executive. What’s more, Toyota has locked-up so many patents around hybrids technology that it’s cheaper to pay now than to develop and get in trouble later.

And if hybrids take off, Mazda wants to one-up Toyota. Let’s face it, a hybrid still needs an ICU. And Mazda thinks they have an ace in the hole with a new-generation engine called SKY, which will be installed in the maker’s mainstay models from 2011. That engine already has a 15-20 percent better fuel efficiency than Mazda’s current mills. Mazda is working on a gasoline compact car that gets better mileage than Honda’s Insight.

Once that SKY-engine is paired with the licensed Toyota technologies, Mazda hopes to offer the most fuel-efficient vehicle on the market. Suddenly, that bride looks very attractive, especially to European car makers, where Japanese brides are held in high regard. Excellent choice, I might add.

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13 Comments on “Mazda On The Prowl For A New Beau...”

  • avatar

    The most intersting bit in this article is the mention of the SKY-engine. The thought of a Mazda3 pulling the mid/high-30’s highway mileage is quite interesting. While the wife and I really liked our ’04 Mazda3s, we were never happy with the fuel mileage and considered it the one negative on the car.

    Hybrids? Meh. I like to drive, not be transported around.

  • avatar

    This is unfortunate for Ford. Mazda has made great engines for years. Mazda shared engine technology with Ford (i.e. Duratec / Zetec engines), only to have Ford stultify the given engines with design changes.

    It won’t hurt now, but with Ford turning their back on Mazda’s engineering, Ford will see problems in the long run. Fortunately, Mazda designed Ford’s new V6s and the Coyote V8, without Ford dicking with the design. Should Ford survive more than a couple of years and need new engine designs, to whom do they turn?

    • 0 avatar

      Mazda designed the Coyote 5.0 V8? Huh? Citation needed, as they say.

    • 0 avatar

      Likewise Ford did the V6s. Mazda redid the 3.7 intake for the CX-9, but Ford designed the basic engine, and the Coyote V8 so far as I know. If you know better, please provide a link/citation.

      The 2.0 liter MZR family 4 cylinder is a Mazda engine, which the Brits especially don’t seem to have a clue is a Japanese design, from reading Racecar Engineering, despite the clue MZ in its name.

  • avatar


    The secret is to buy the 2.0 over the 2.3

    • 0 avatar

      Unfortunately, back in ’04, if you wanted the 5-door you had to take the 2.3.

    • 0 avatar

      Syke, that’s still the case now, although with the new model it’s a 2.5. The 2.0 is definitely more efficient, and when I test drove both, not really any slower. The 2.3 had a little more torque, which was nice in the higher gears, but otherwise it didn’t feel any faster through the first 3 gears. The 2.0 model is lighter, and I get 38-39 mpg from mostly highway driving.

      I’ll be interested to see what the EPA rating is for the Mazda 2. Will it have a Sky-G engine? I want to buy either that or a Polo, but I’m hoping that one of them will offer a 2-door version.

    • 0 avatar

      That always bothered me about Mazda. If you wanted the 5-door you had to take the larger motor whether you liked it or not. I’m also not happy that Mazda can’t get the 2.3 and now 2.5 in the Mazda3 to match the mileage the same motor gets in the larger Ford Fusion.

  • avatar

    I thought the Mazda-Ford deal made a lot of sense as well. Guess corporate egos got in the way.

  • avatar
    Kristjan Ambroz

    Well, IIRC Nissan also licenced the Toyota hybrid technology earlier on (first gen, not the second gen here), so that hardly means a jumping into bed on its own. But would be interesting. The question is also what Mazda would bring to Toyota. I would say a European manufacturer is likely a better bet.

  • avatar
    Uncle Mellow

    I always thought the Ford/Mazda alliance had more benefits for Ford than for Mazda. As a longtime Mazda owner , I am pleased future Mazdas will be less tainted with Ford influence.

  • avatar

    I’m shocked that Ford would be so braindead to let Mazda get away. I can’t believe that the relationship is so damaged that Mazzda can’t work something in their favour.

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