Mazda On The Prowl For A New Beau

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt
mazda on the prowl for a new beau

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.

Join the conversation
2 of 13 comments
  • Uncle Mellow Uncle Mellow on Mar 30, 2010

    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.

  • Dimwit Dimwit on Mar 30, 2010

    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.

  • Lou_BC "15mpg EPA" The 2023 ZR2 Colorado is supposed to be 16 mpg
  • ToolGuy "The more aerodynamic, organic shape of the Mark VIII meant ride height was slightly lower than before at 53.6 inches, over 54.2” for the Mark VII."• I am not sure that ride height means what you think it means.Elaboration: There is some possible disagreement about what "ride height" refers to. Some say ground clearance, some say H point (without calling it that), some say something else. But none of those people would use a number of over 4 feet for a stock Mark anything.Then you go on to use it correctly ("A notable advancement in the Mark VIII’s suspension was programming to lower the ride height slightly at high speeds, which assisted fuel economy via improved aerodynamics.") so what do I know. Plus, I ended a sentence with a preposition. 🙂
  • ToolGuy The dealer knows best. 🙂
  • ToolGuy Cool.
  • ToolGuy This truck is the perfect size, and the fuel economy is very impressive.-This post sponsored by ExxonMobil