By on March 15, 2018

2017 Mazda CX-5 Driving, Image: Mazda

There’s 4,000 new jobs coming to Huntsville, Alabama, but there’ll also be 150,000 unnamed Mazda crossovers rolling out to dealers across North America each year — assuming the model’s a success. Our money’s on Mazda giving its new child a name starting with “CX-.”

Mazda and Toyota made their 50-50 joint venture official this week, creating a business entity called Mazda Toyota Manufacturing, U.S.A., Inc. and boosting the presence of car manufacturing in the South. Production begins in 2021. For Mazda, it will be the company’s first assembly facility in the U.S., though it’s technically not a wholly-owned, standalone operation. There’ll be just as many Toyota Corollas leaving the factory as Mazdas.

While there are scant clues about the nature of Mazda’s mystery vehicle, the brand’s recent sales, plus a revealing loyalty report, suggest the company could have a hit on its hands.

“We hope to make MTMUS a plant that will hold a special place in the heart of the local community for many, many years,” said Mazda’s Executive Officer Masashi Aihara, who also holds the position of president of the venture.

To the best of anyone’s knowledge, the CX-3, CX-5, and CX-9 will remain in their respective places in Mazda’s lineup. The new model, almost certainly slotted towards the higher end of the lineup, is designed to appeal specifically to U.S. buyers, the company claims. Nor will it step on any models’ toes and cannibalize sales. This seems like a tall order, but Mazda isn’t known for its lazy, rushed judgement.

The company plans to devote its entire annual production capacity of 150,000 vehicles to this new crossover — a number higher than the sales of any existing Mazda model in the United States. Talk about high hopes. Even the brand’s top-selling model, the CX-5, didn’t reach that number in the U.S. last year (its best sales year to date), though it passes the 150k barrier if you add in Canadian sales. No other model comes close.

Actually, the CX-5 deserves further mention. After rising every year since its 2012 introduction, sales of the CX-5 seem to have exploded as of late. U.S. sales rose 13.7 percent in 2017 compared to the previous year. Over the first two months of 2018, sales are up 67.8 percent — enough to give the automaker its best February showing in the U.S. in 24 years. This, despite double-digit decreases in Mazda 3, 6, and MX-5 volume.

If the 2021 CX-? is able to garner this kind of demand, it won’t matter what buyers think of Mazda’s passenger cars, or even whether they exist.

Another item of note: Last week, Edmunds published its annual customer loyalty report, which delves into the likelihood of buyers trading in their vehicle for one of the same brand. In it was plenty of good news for Mazda.

For starters, SUV owners are most likely (75 percent) to stick with the same bodystyle at trade-in time. Loyalty among brands was also higher for Japanese automakers (83 percent). For Mazda, loyalty rates rose from 23 percent to 44 percent between 2007 and 2017 — the largest improvement of any mainstream automaker.

All of this sets up Mazda’s mystery vehicle for success, but there was another key finding in Edmunds’ report. It’s a doozy.

Mazda “has the distinction of having the vehicle with the highest number of return customers of any single vehicle in 2017 with its CX-5,” Edmunds discovered.

Will Mazda’s mystery vehicle be something passionately loyal CX-5 owners can move up to? A three-row with greater affordability than the CX-9, perhaps?

[Image: Mazda]

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25 Comments on “Mazda and Toyota’s Joint Venture Is Official, Tons of Corollas and a Mystery Model Await...”

  • avatar

    “For Mazda, it will be the company’s first assembly facility in the U.S.”

    Um, no. They had a joint assembly plant in Michigan with Ford for decades. That plant was bought out by Ford when they divorced, and now builds Mustang and Continental.

  • avatar
    Peter Gazis

    “The companies first assembly plant in the U.S.”

    Didn’t Mazda abandon a plant in Flat Rock Michigan during the great recession and leave Ford holding the bag?

    • 0 avatar

      I think when Ford divested its stake in Mazda it essentially dissolved the relationship. If Mazda was smart, it was a joint venture for production capacity only. I mean, who wants to be on the hook for hundreds of UAW workers. I think the employees were always employed by Ford.

      • 0 avatar

        Mazda got away from Ford pretty much intact, unlike Jag/Land Rover who inherited some Ford “quality”.

        • 0 avatar

          “Mazda got away from Ford pretty much intact, unlike Jag/Land Rover who inherited some Ford “quality”.”

          1990s Land Rovers and 1980s Jaguars were anything but the pinnacle of quality:

          “Build quality of the XJ varied greatly over these years, from good in the early years, to very poor during and after the British-Leyland take over in the seventies thru early eighties (approximately 1982), then back to good in the mid eighties and then very good since Ford acquired the company in 1991 until the end of Series III production in 1992. Horror stories abound:”

          • 0 avatar

            No no, now we all know that Jaguar and Land Rover were the Toyota of luxury cars/utilities until Ford ruined them.

  • avatar

    Diamond Star Motors was available as a name guys. Just sayin’.

    • 0 avatar

      Personally I would have liked “Maz-Yota Manufacturing” – just picturing the Alabama locals saying it out loud brings a smile to my face.

      • 0 avatar
        Peter Gazis

        Just make sure the spell the name right.


      • 0 avatar
        Daniel J

        Obviously you know nothing of the Huntsville Alabama area.

        • 0 avatar

          Daniel, as a resident of Huntsville, you’re spot-on. I’m a degreed engineer and likely one of the “lessor” educated folks in the Huntsville/Madison area. There are honest to goodness rocket scientists running round, as roughly 1/3 of Redstone Arsenal is NASA workspace. Toyota/Mazda will have a fairly highly-skilled pool to draw from for employees, likely another reason they chose the area to build the plant. I’m excited for the area. Heck, maybe something cool will come out of the plant that I can buy to support my local Huntsvillians down the road.

          • 0 avatar

            C’mon guys, every one in the south is stupid. No getting around that. And, its okay to make fun of them. Well, the white ones anyway.

          • 0 avatar
            Daniel J

            @threeer – I live here in Huntville too, since 1999. Considering that half of Huntsville or more are transplants from all over the country. We have NASA, Marshall Space Flight Center, and the second largest research park in the country.

            @JohnTaurus – I can’t tell if you are being sarcastic or not. Madison County has a higher percentage of Degreed individuals than New York City. Huntsville and the surrounding area is an anomaly in Alabama.

          • 0 avatar

            In fairness, the Huntsville/Madison area has so little to do with the Roy Moore Alabama that it should rightly be its own state, say North Alabama. I’m a little surprised that people who follow NASA and space launches remember Huntsville as rocket-central without remembering the state it’s in. Sure, there are many degreed engineers from elsewhere who’ve made the area their home, and a byproduct is a host of quality public schools in the area. Some of you Jeopardy Championship viewers will remember that the last Teen Championship winner, Sharath Narayan, came from Madison.

    • 0 avatar

      Their premier model, under tiny spotlights in the showroom, would be the Diamond Star Halo.

  • avatar

    I doubt the volume of Mazdas leaving the plant will equal the number of Toyotas that are produced there.

  • avatar

    Manual awd…. just saying…

  • avatar

    So, stylish (Mazda) meets boring (Toyota).

    This should be interesting. Maybe some of Mazda’s style can rub off on Toyota, and Toyota’s quality standards can positively influence Mazda. Win win.

    • 0 avatar

      Toyota’s quality standards are overrated. However…

      Mazda makes vehicles that are very nice to look at. Toyota makes vehicles that people actually buy. The combination has potential.

      • 0 avatar

        I tend to agree. There is no denying that Toyota produces excellent cars, but they are also incredibly overrated.

        I’ve had two Toyotas (Camry/Celica) and a Lexus (ES250) in the past and they had some issues, costly issues.

  • avatar

    “A three-row with greater affordability than the CX-9, perhaps?”

    I feel like CX9 with no third row would be perfect 2-row car. But I think, Mazda will do Murano trick. It will be a car, larger than cx5, with luxo-oriented style and packaging, and peppy engine. And no third row

  • avatar

    I’m hoping for a SkyactivX plug in hybrid…

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    My guess is a shortened 2 row cx9.Basically the opposite of what Lexus did with the RX.Mazda has been able to jump out of the edge and murano segment and now compete with Lexus Acura Volvo Infinity.In fact 2 people I know ended up in Cx9 after starting out for MDX and RXs.

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