By on May 11, 2018

Image: Mazda

The man who spent the last five years overseeing Mazda’s North American operations will soon lead the company. Akira Marumoto, 60, takes the helm of the automaker on June 26th, the company announced Friday.

The moves comes as Mazda prepares to introduce a revolutionary type of gasoline engine, the Skyactiv-X, in the hopes of proving its complete reliance on internal combustion cars does not make it a dinosaur.

Marumoto, seen in the center of the above photo, accepted his current position in June of 2013. In succeeding president and CEO Masamichi Kogai (who becomes chairman), Marumoto must continue growing the automaker’s global sales and making the best of its strategic partnership with Toyota. It’s a good thing Marumoto knows a lot about the Americas.

Under Kogai, Mazda continued with its plan to put high-compression Skyactiv engines in all of its vehicles while moving the brand slightly upmarket. The current-generation MX-5 and CX-3 subcompact crossover appeared on his watch, while the latter vehicle’s platform mate, the Mazda 2 (Demio), arrived in the Americas as a Toyota-badged vehicle. Speaking of that automaker, the 2015 partnership came about after Mazda, being of limited resources, decided Toyota’s electrification technology could help it keep up with green vehicle expectations — while cutting down on R&D costs.

Toyota bought a 5 percent stake in Mazda last year.

Unlike other Japanese brands, Mazda’s domestic sales pale compared to those in Europe, China, and especially North America. In 2017, North American Mazda sales were more than double that of its Japanese home market. A new American-market crossover slated for a joint Mazda-Toyota plant in Huntsville, Alabama will go a long way to helping Mazda reach its global sales goal of 2 million vehicles in 2024. Or so Mazda hopes.

The split Huntsville plant starts production in 2021, with the capacity to build 150,000 of the unnamed crossovers a year. Toyota Corollas will roll out of the other half.

Before any of that happens, however, there’s a riskier debut coming down the pipe. The Skyactiv-X engine, a (mainly) sparkless gasoline compression ignition engine, arrives sometime next year in the next-generation Mazda 3. Mazda expects significant fuel economy gains from the new mill. Should the engine prove reliable and economical, Mazda will have shown that its devotion to the internal combustion engine wasn’t foolhardy.

It could be enough to cause more than a few greenies think twice about switching to a slow-charging, limited range electric vehicle. Again, Mazda hopes.

With Marumoto heading to the big office, his current job as VP and Americas boss goes to Kiyoshi Fujiwara, the company’s senior managing executive officer and R&D boss. Fujiwara will continue overseeing the R&D file.

[Image: Mazda]

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10 Comments on “Mazda Taps Americas Boss As New CEO; No Shortage of Risk Lies Ahead...”

  • avatar

    Mazda, BMW, Audi, Honda, and a few other makers recognize there is a very real portion of the vehicle buying public that LIKES driving properly engineered cars and station wagons. Most of this group does NOT want more expensive SUVs & crossovers that handle less well and get poorer fuel economy. Most of this group ALSO has little or no interest in generic autonomous vehicles used on a service basis like taxis.

    Ford is abandoning us, so my Fiesta ST is likely the last Ford I will ever own.

  • avatar

    Too bad Ford can’t buy Mazda, maybe they would be more successful with Mazda’s sedans than Mazda is.

    But then they would have to lose the Escape, which IMO would be no big loss. My big sister loves hers, but she’s 65 and technically challenged. But, I looked it up and I can’t believe that Ford sold 307k of them in 2017 (I bet a big percentage of those were leased). To me, it’s like 7/10s of a car.

    That she can get around on her iPhone remains amazing to me, but she’s a better cook.

  • avatar

    “Skyactiv-X engine, a (mainly) sparkless gasoline compression ignition engine”

    Wrong. Totally and completely incorrect. Not even close.

    But expected. Mr Willems never admits mistakes, merely plows on digging a greater hole. Challenged several times on this point before, he’s stuck to this error. Time to, you know, to wake up or be disbarred from The Grand League of Muttering Rotters and Scribes.

    It needs a spark for every firing stroke. Heck, even your boss Mr Healey explained how it works, sort of.

    An excerpt: Skyactiv-X uses what Mazda calls Spark Plug Controlled Compression Ignition (SPCCI).

  • avatar

    It matters not.

    The camel’s (Toyota) nose is under the tent.

  • avatar

    How about a pickup truck from Mazda? Tacoma rebadge maybe?

  • avatar

    Mazda is all image and no performance! Mazda will offer performance only if they are force to by competitors like Honda and Toyota! Otherwise, they advertise performance but keep the same underpowered powertrains! LOL! They think buyers are suckers and they are trying to go to the next upscale level with the same engine performance with weak acceleration other then the 2.5L turbo!

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