By on November 2, 2016

2016 Mazda 3 sedan

Mazda loves its Skyactiv engine technology, as the high-compression fuel-sippers eliminate the automaker’s need for pricey hybrids or battery electric vehicles.

Boasting an increasingly rare all-gas U.S. fleet, Mazda has said it can handle increasingly stringent fuel economy requirements with improved second-generation Skyactiv engines, including their diesel variants.

It now looks like that plan won’t be enough.

According to Bloomberg (via Automotive News), Mazda is in talks with Toyota on a number of areas of cooperation, including electric vehicle technology. Last year, the two automakers discussed hybrid technology and agreed to jointly benefit from the Mexican-made Mazda2 (aka Toyota Yaris R in Mexico, Yaris iA in the U.S., and Yaris Sedan in Canada).

News of a potentially expanded partnership adds further doubt to Mazda’s long-held plan to sell diesels in the U.S.

In July, CEO Masamichi Kogai claimed oil burners were on the way, despite numerous delays. “We are not giving up,” he said. “We have a timeline.”

Kogai wouldn’t say what that timeline was.

Time will tell what the public’s appetite for diesel-powered small cars is in the post-Volkswagen emissions scandal era. Thanks to Wolfsburg-based emissions cheating, environmental regulators around the world have diesel engines in their sights, with emissions requirements posed to become even stricter.

For Mazda, the pre-scandal road wasn’t an easy one. The Mazda6 diesel was supposed to show up in the U.S. in 2013, but was delayed until 2014. Rumors at the time mentioned emissions issues, though Mazda later stated that U.S.-spec models failed to meet performance standards. A year later, and another delay. TTAC reported then that the diesel program was due for a revamp.

Since then, the automaker’s plan for a diesel Mazda6 — and Mazda3 and CX-5, perhaps — has turned into ghosts. As Kogai sang the praises of diesel this past summer, the automaker pulled its diesel 3 out of the Australian market after years of complaints, including fouled particulate filters and contaminated engine oil.

Bringing Skyactiv-D powerplants to the U.S. would boost the automaker’s Corporate Average Fuel Economy rating, something General Motors has in mind (but isn’t talking about) with its upcoming Chevrolet Cruze Diesel. Still, hybrids and electrics are the go-to solution for most automakers.

No automaker wants to be seen falling behind in the technology race, and fielding an electric vehicle is as much about PR as it is about the environment. Of course, that doesn’t mean an automaker can’t mix it up.

Jacob Brown, product communications specialist with Mazda USA, tells TTAC that “Mazda remains committed to bringing its diesel technology to the U.S.” He couldn’t provide a timeline.

While Brown couldn’t comment on what products the Toyota talks could bring, he did mention the need to prepare for the future.

“Globally, there will be many new regulations coming into effect in the near and not-so-distant future,” said Brown. “Mazda is a proudly independent automaker that looks to position itself for the longterm with solutions that work.”

[Image: Mazda USA]

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48 Comments on “As Mazda Talks with Toyota about Electrification, Is Its U.S. Diesel Dream in Peril?...”


  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    When they missed their 2013 target, I figured this was probably never going to happen. Anyway, diesels don’t fit with the image I have of Mazda. A company that was committed for decades to rotary engines, and and trying to improve their efficiency and emissions, doesn’t sound like someone who would push diesels, certainly not in the future.

  • avatar
    White Shadow

    Did VW single-handedly kill the diesel passenger car market in the U.S.?

    Seriously, it’s not like diesel passenger cars are something new.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Yes, they did, just as GM did in the 1980s.

      Diesel passenger cars remain a novelty in the US. Just as this was changing, VW poisoned the well.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      The only way this is remotely related to VW is that Mazda doesn’t have the balls to cheat to meet their cost and MPG requirements while VW was happy to cheat to give their diesels an advantage.

      • 0 avatar
        White Shadow

        Yeah, that’s my point–everyone (meaning manufacturers) seem to be running scared because of the VW scandal. But why? Are they worried that customers in general will shy away from diesels? I could understand if this was a VW thing, but it’s obviously much more far reaching than that.

        • 0 avatar
          stuki

          The reason VW “cheated” was because cheating is how you make diesels seem sufficiently attractive to sell lots of them to consumers with US preferences for price/performance/emissions. Not because VW happens to be some weird bunch of undifferentiated “Baaaad” people in a world where everyone else are “Gooood.”

  • avatar
    JimZ

    AFAIK their difficulty with the SkyActiv-D was trying to make them compliant without urea SCR.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “…the high-compression fuel-sippers eliminate the automaker’s need for pricey hybrids or battery electric vehicles”

    That’s not true.

    Mazda’s Skyactiv engines are efficient, but they can’t touch the efficiencies of a hybrid or an EV. Mazda’s CAFE benefits by not having a truck in its fleet.

    Mazda doesn’t have a hybrid or EV for exactly two reasons:
    1. They’re stubborn. Their ongoing commitment to the defunct rotary has passed from being brave to being foolish.
    2. They don’t have the resources to develop them. This is the only reason they’re talking to Toyota.

    Mazda’s mythical diesel will never come to the US.

    As for Toyota, any talk by them about EVs is counter to their ongoing campaign against BEVs in favor of hydrogen fuel cells.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      Mazda’s CAFE results do not benefit from not have a truck, truck standards are completely separate. Plus it is all based on footprint so there is no universal number that every mfg has to meet, just ones for each vehicle based on the footprint. However you can trade credits so if car A exceeds its target by 1mpg and they sell 100,000 of them they have a credit of 100k mpg which they could use to offset 100K worth o vehicles that miss the target by 1mpg or 50K worth of vehicles that miss the target by 2mpg.

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      As I’ve said many times before, a fuel cell vehicle is just an electric where the fuel cell is the battery. At any time, Toyota can put the latest battery into a fuel cell vehicle. The articles about Toyota leaving electric vehicles misses the point. They aren’t focusing on development of current battery technology. They are focusing on developing fuel cells instead. It doesn’t mean that at any time they require, they can’t call up Panasonic and throw the latest battery into their newest Mirai.

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        I don’t think that’s exactly correct. There may be different power output standards with a battery versus FC, cooling requirements, and other minor differences. But in general, yes, FCs and batteries are equivalent.

        Also, given how Toyota was previously sticking with NiMH batteries instead of moving to Li-Ion implied they didn’t have the latest battery tech. Their recent announcement about making Li-Ion safe enough suggests that they will ramp up their battery EV portfolio. They certainly are bullish on FCs, but if they flame out (which they will), Toyota now seems primed to quickly step back to batteries.

    • 0 avatar
      RobertRyan

      @SCE to AUX
      Mazda has abandoned Ford for it’s next generation Pickups and will be partnering with Isuzu instead. Could be very interesting in what they come up with.
      Mazda diesels had problems, so did their Anderson Cycle? Engines for their cars and their pet love the Rotary is still being worked on

    • 0 avatar
      SP

      SCE, I agree with point #2. Mazda has limited resources, and it makes sense for them to let others (the “pros”) work on EV and hybrid tech, and license it as needed.

      As for point #1, I think it’s less stubbornness and more a case of, “you can’t win if you don’t play”. Maybe the rotary will never pay off again, but one thing you can say about it is, nobody else has it. Obviously, it’s disadvantaged when considered for use in daily driver vehicles. But it may have a role in future niche vehicles.

      I prefer to think that Mazda is waiting to do anything EV until they know they can do it right. I think their development philosophy is really admirable, because in recent years, they have done a very good job of not rushing half-baked things to market.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    Diesel is doo doo anyway. Electrification is the way forward. Hopefully Toyazda make good on that free piston generator system.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      This. Now that the Europeans are waking up to the fact that in real-world use cases their “clean” diesels are emitting far more HC and NOx than test results or legal requirements would imply, the future of diesel for passenger cars is in deep peril. If I were running a carmaker today, I’d be feverishly investing in anything but diesel. Which means electrification, both with an ICE and without.

      • 0 avatar
        RobertRyan

        @dal20402
        Lucky you are not running a company. Anti-Diesel is a very NA thing.Elsewhere they are pumping out Diesel cars and SUV’s

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          Not anymore. The Europeans are starting to mobilize against it. If diesel isn’t viable in Europe, it’s not viable anywhere.

          It will stay in commercial trucks of all sizes where its advantages are impossible to ignore, but it will disappear soon enough from passenger cars and small to midsize personal-use trucks.

        • 0 avatar
          RobertRyan

          @dal20402
          They are walking away from Diesel cars as much as NAmericans are walking away from Pickups.
          It’s use is increasing in Global Pickups and still very much a feature in European cars
          Hybrids , EV’s sound great , but like Musk’s Tesla’s , they are awfully scarce,even in Europe.

          • 0 avatar
            stuki

            Plenty of Euro cities are considering straight up banning diesels from their city centers. They’re only holding back until Euro industry has suitable EVs or long-enough-for-city-use EV range plug-in diesel hybrids. The latter scheduled to be the New New Thing: “Zero” emission EV in dense cities, highly efficient diesel on the highway.

  • avatar
    npaladin2000

    This was bound to happen. You see, the EPA targets existed specifically to force manufacturers to start building electric vehicles: the whole point was to forcibly create and expand an electric vehicle market. Any manufacturer claiming they could meet the standard with a gas-only fleet was simply going to inspire the EPA to move the goalposts until the couldn’t meet it anymore.

  • avatar
    zoomzoomfan

    There’s a Japan-only hybrid Mazda3 that uses the Prius’ hybrid setup, as well.

    Mazda partnering with Toyota on things sounds good to me. Little manufacturer trades tech and models with bigger manufacturer and little manufacturer gets to stay afloat. Win win.

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      I am surprised more manufacturers don’t buy Toyota’s hybrid system and instead waste money developing more complicated and less efficient systems. Toyota’s hybrid transmission is genius in its simplicity. This is why GM copied it for the Volt. Anyone who is not familiar with how the Toyota system works should go to how stuff works or YouTube. It is amazingly simple.

      • 0 avatar
        npaladin2000

        Umm, the Volt system is completely different from Toyota’s. It’s not even a hybrid, it’s an electric vehicle with an on-board generator (the engine NEVER powers the wheels directly, it just generates electricity).

        • 0 avatar
          derekson

          The engine actually does power the wheels along with the electric motor in certain situations because GM found that was more efficient in situations that demand higher power (accelerating on the highway, for instance).

          • 0 avatar
            JimZ

            while true (and the nerds lost their damn minds when GM disclosed that) it still doesn’t make it a copy of the Prius’s transaxle like MBella claims.

          • 0 avatar
            MBella

            The Prius transmission uses a simple planetary gear set to connect the drive motors and engine to the drive wheels. The Volt transmission uses the same exact principle. The Volt was designed entirely after the Prius’s system was on the market. It is very difficult to say that GM didn’t copy Toyota’s system.

          • 0 avatar
            npaladin2000

            Pretty low standard there. Every hybrid system out there uses some sort of dual-input planetary transmission to manage power from both sources. Are you saying that Hyundai and Honda also copied Toyota’s system? Ford? Under your definition pretty much any system that uses a dual input automatic transmission is a “copy” of Toyota’s system.

          • 0 avatar
            MBella

            No. Most of the other systems use conventional automatics and add a motor or two. Ford licensed Toyota’s technology early, and worked off of that knowledge to form their current hybrids, and their system works the same way for that reason.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            Depends what you mean by “most.” There are a whole lot of systems out there that don’t involve conventional transmissions, and they don’t all work the same. They are also usually considered the most advanced.

            Ford and Toyota have planetary systems where the two inputs are the gas engine and an electric motor, both of which are engaged at all times. Honda has a simple clutch-based system where the clutch can swap the larger electric motor and the gas engine, either of which directly drives the wheels when the clutch engages it. Chevy’s Volt system is similar to Honda’s, but engages the gas engine far less often, resulting in something that acts a lot more like a series hybrid. Chevy’s truck system, rumored to be coming back and also commonly used in large city buses, could route power through either a planetary system similar to Toyota’s or one of four fixed gears within the hybrid transmission unit.

            By contrast the makers pairing electric assist with conventional automatics (including VAG, Nissan, and Hyundai) are usually seen as also-rans in the hybrid space.

          • 0 avatar
            Scoutdude

            Ford did not license their system from Toyota and the reality is that Toyota got their start by buying patents from Ford for their system they were working on in the 90’s that worked like this Nissan system except that it had a larger battery and was going to be a plug in hybrid/range extender type of vehicle.

            The recent Accord Hybrid has a starter/generator connected to the ICE which has a clutch on the other end to connect it to the traction MG. So once the speed is high enough the clutch is engaged so the ICE mechanically directly drives the vehicle. The traction MG always spins in relation to the vehicle but in a steady state cruise above the clutch engagement speed it and the SG are just along for the ride neither generating or consuming electricity.

            The Ford/Toyota style system uses the traction MG to generate the power needed to run the Range MG to provide a connection between the ICE and the wheels. The parasitic drag of that system vs the reason that the Fusion and Camry can’t touch the Accord in hwy MPG.

          • 0 avatar
            MBella

            First, Ford did license most of the technology for the original Escape hybrid from Toyota. To this day, Ford purchases their hybrid transmissions from Aisin which is Toyota’s transmission affiliate.
            http://m.wardsauto.com/news-analysis/toyota-technology-kick-started

            The Volt is most definitely a hybrid. The major differences between it and the Plug in Prius are larger motors and battery. The system operates pretty much identically.

            There isn’t enough information on the new Honda system. There seams to be one very primitive graffic that gets used everywhere. All it shows is the engine, two motors and drive wheels connected through a gear set. Likely, it’s another variation of the basic Toyota design. Sometimes someone just comes up with a design concept that works better. Nobody is going to use square wheels because round wheels are someone else’s idea.

          • 0 avatar
            JimZ

            MBella,

            you are again incorrect. the current Ford hybrids use the HF35 transaxle, which is a Ford unit built at Van Dyke Transmission Plant in Michigan.

            http://wardsauto.com/technology/ford-says-homegrown-cvt-key-speed-fuel-economy-new-hybrids

        • 0 avatar
          dukeisduke

          When the Volt was initially announced, they said it was going to be an electric vehicle with an ICE as a range extender (to charge the battery), like the Fisker Karma. Later on, when they got closer to production, they admitted that it was going to be a gas-electric hybrid, like the Prius.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            It acts exactly like a range-extended electric under almost all circumstances, connecting the wheels and engine directly only at higher cruise speeds where that is more efficient than using the engine as a generator.

      • 0 avatar
        indi500fan

        Allison (then owned by GM) introduced parallel hybrids for transit vehicles in 2001. As a matter of fact a number of the engineers who developed it went to Motown to work on the Volt. So attributing the technology to Toyota is a bit of a stretch.

        • 0 avatar
          MBella

          The Allison parallel hybrid system wasn’t anything like the Toyota system. It’s nothing against the Volt or its hybrid system. They just chose the best setup available.

  • avatar
    FormerFF

    I know there are a lot of people who diss hybrids, which makes me wonder if they’ve only driven a Prius. I’ve been driving a PHEV for the last couple of years, and for intown use, it can’t be beat, and it’s a terrific highway car as well.

    The price difference between a hybrid and a diesel is pretty insignificant,and the fueling cost for the hybrid is lower. Assuming the diesel requires DEF and has a particulate filter, the maintenance cost of the hybrid will be lower as well.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      A lot of people genuinely don’t realize that a hybrid can drive differently from a Prius.

      • 0 avatar
        stuki

        But can it drive (and look) different than Prius, while remaining equally efficient? Both gas and price wise…. The Euros seem to believe _very_ narrow rev range, highly optimized diesels with minimized parasitics, can significantly improve upon what Toyota can do with the Prius. But I’d be surprised if they’ll even pretend to compete on price.

  • avatar
    Notmyname

    The problem Mazda has to face is, not only does the engine have to meet emissions testing, it has to surpass them by a lot. Otherwise the engine will be obsolete in a few years. There’s no way a small manufacturer like Mazda can afford that. And Toyota could care less. Their probably isn’t a car maker with less to gain by bringing diesel passenger cars to the US then Toyota, so i doubt they’re helping Mazda with this.

  • avatar
    slap

    A couple of years ago, I did a little research on Mazda Diesels. Because the thought of a brown diesel manual station wagon……

    Anyway, there were quite a few complaints from people who had Mazda diesels in other countries. Seems that excess fuel was getting into the engine oil, so the oil levels would get too high, and the lubricating properties of the oil diluted. The excess oil was believed to be used for the enriching of the air/fuel mixture for the DPF burnoff.

    Frankly, the changes in diesels required to meet the new emission standards in the US starting in 2009 have made diesels far less attractive.

  • avatar
    redav

    If SkyActiv II does what they claim (and if they can get it to market), it could be sufficient to meet CAFE without hybrids/EVs/diesels. It aims for a 30% increase in efficiency from their current engines. Also, if SkyActiv II gets to market, they have no need for a diesel (because HCCI is basically a diesel running on gasoline). Any discussion about diesel in the US seemingly depends on SkyActiv II not working.

    However, I believe CARB will do away with its exemptions/credits for small manufacturers which would force Mazda (and others) to offer EVs in order to continue doing business in CA. As other commenters noted, Mazda already has a 3 hybrid in Japan that is a Toyota transmission+motor paired to a Mazda engine. I understand why they haven’t brought it to the US (not a fit to their brand image, can’t compete with Prius, hybrid sales are not a growth segment, don’t want to change manufacturing lines, etc.)

    However, I am intrigued by the idea of a Mazda EV. EVs have excellent characteristics with low COG & instant torque. I think Mazda can do a lot with that, especially if they make a dedicated car instead of converting one. I’d be totally on board with Mazda equivalent to the Volt with a Wankel generator. It looks like Toyota has safely upped the energy density for Li-Ion batteries, so a 200 mi EV from them seems doable, and Mazda should have access to the tech.
    http://fortune.com/2016/10/31/toyota-prius-prime-lithium-batteries/

    • 0 avatar
      Stevo

      But I doubt the Wankel generator will meet emissions. That, and poor economy, has always been the issue. They would be smart to use Toyota’s proven hybrid powertrain and focus energy on other necessary tasks.

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        Wankels are always behind the curve on emissions, but supposedly their Sky-R engine is a big improvement. If used in a generator application, i.e., tight speed range, it should be much easier to solve those issues. Wankels can be sufficiently efficient if they run (only) at their ideal speed. The benefit would be how small/compact the generator could be, thus freeing up space for interior volume or more batteries.

    • 0 avatar
      SP

      I also would be very interested to see what Mazda could do with a hybrid or EV. They have managed to make econo-cars fun and stylish, while still excelling at the econo- part of the equation.

      An electric Mazda sports coupe would be very interesting. Something with an RX- flavor, though I guess it would need a new acronym.

  • avatar
    brandloyalty

    Mazda used to sell a hybrid suv. A few of them anyway. And it was just a Ford Escape Hybrid. Mazda Tribute.

  • avatar
    HotPotato

    Mazda HAS done a hybrid with a Wankel generator, in a Mazda 2 available in only Japan. I get the downsides—it’s hard to control a Wankel’s emissions and thirst for fuel, so it’s not the easiest way to be green—but said Wankel wouldn’t have to be very big at all for this application, so that might lessen those issues…and the packaging and weight benefits of a very small, very light, vibration free ICE would be fantastic. My hope would be that Mazda kicks things off by sending us their Wankel Mazda 2 hybrid…it sounds like a fun ride.

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