By on June 10, 2019

Despite the recent development of a high-MPG, low-emission gasoline four-cylinder, Mazda’s future depends on lowering its emissions footprint even further. With regulators — especially those in Europe — backing ever more stringent environmental standards, Mazda hopes to avoid Fiat Chrysler-like penalties by adding a product at odds with the brand’s heritage. An electric vehicle.

With the help of its partners, Mazda’s new EV will make an appearance next year, followed up with a crop of plug-in hybrids buyers are more likely to take home.

In an interview with Automotive News, CEO Akira Marumoto said the popularity of the compact CX-5 is a major reason why his company’s European fleetwide emissions target remains unmet. The declining popularity of small diesel-powered models is another factor.

While the innovative Skyactiv-X internal combustion engine will certainly help the company make strides towards its goal, Marumoto said, it won’t be enough. (European orders for Mazda 3 models equipped with the engine opened last week; North American customers remain in wait-and-see mode).

Turning to future products, Marumoto said “the first Mazda battery-electric vehicle will hit the market next year. Finally, we will introduce plug-in hybrid models from 2021 or 2022. So we will eventually achieve the target, although we will have some difficulties in 2020.”

Smaller than its Japanese rivals and lacking their impressive R&D capability (as well as cash reserves), Mazda fields zero hybrids or EVs in its lineup. This is where teamwork comes in. Two years ago, Toyota bought a 5.05 percent stake in Mazda, with the two soon joining supplier Denso in signing an agreement to “jointly develop basic structural technologies for electric vehicles.” Financially and technologically, the effort is being spearheaded by Toyota, which footed 90 percent of the bill. Mazda and Denso ponied up the remainder.

The nature of the looming EV isn’t clear, though its development, removed from the rest of the Mazda product line, will ensure it appears as a standalone model. As for plug-in hybrids, Mazda isn’t the first rival automaker to benefit from Toyota’s development prowess. Ask Subaru about that.

A new rotary engine that may one day appear beneath the hood of a Mazda sports car might also find a home in the brand’s electrified offerings.

“Its first application will be as a range extender for EVs,” Marumoto said. “Inside Mazda, we all have the dream of seeing one day a vehicle powered by a rotary engine. But given the number of things we have to do, we had to put this on the back burner, and we have no time frame.”

[Image: Mazda]

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17 Comments on “When ICE Isn’t Enough: Mazda’s First Electric Still on Track for 2020, Plug-ins to Follow...”


  • avatar
    Nick_515

    Someone called this here. I think it was sportyaccordy,

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      Yes, twas I, which again makes all the money thrown at Skyactiv-D/X that much more of a waste. Jumping onto Toyota’s hybrid train… no BEVs or PHEVs… would probably have made the 3/6 40-45MPG cars and the CX-5/9 30-35 MPG crossovers in real life. Just bums me out to think of all that squandered capital.

      • 0 avatar
        mike978

        The diesel engine sells in Europe and other markets, so that is not squandered capital.
        As for the X we will see, it could play a major part in the future since no-ones is projecting 100% BEVs for a decade. Which therefore means some ICE engines continue and the X could well be one of those.

  • avatar
    FerrariLaFerrariFace

    And it will be the best handling, most fun to drive compact SUV under $100,000.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “Inside Mazda, we all have the dream of seeing one day a vehicle powered by a rotary engine.”

    This is one of their biggest problems. It’s long past time for Mazda to give up this dream, and use its limited resources to build more competitive products. Other engine designs have become obsolete for various reasons (straight-8s, 2-cycles, turbines, flatheads, carburetors, points & condensers, and even automotive diesels), and Mazda needs to accept the fact that the rotary will never again be viable – either from a technical or regulatory point of view.

    Plus, any vehicle powered by a rotary will be distrusted and shunned by most of the market – ironically by many people who were burned by a rotary in the past.

    PS: Mazda may really like the BEV thing. Such a vehicle would offer the torque of their meager diesel offerings, and which rotaries definitely lack. Not to mention better ‘fuel economy’, with no sacrifice in driving dynamics.

  • avatar
    Jerome10

    I’m convinced Mazda doesn’t know what they’re doing. I say this as a multiple Mazda owner.

    1) It wasn’t that long ago, here at TTAC, Mazda was saying they had no plans for EV/hybrids and they could hit their MPG targets running on ICE. So now that isn’t the case?

    2) Engine situation in the ND Miata. Based on the 2019 model, it is beyond clear to me that Mazda has not planned on the 2.0L for the ND, and they last-minute’d the engine into the Miata. The changes in 2019 were changes, all for the better, that could have and should have been included when the car was released. It wasn’t like it is an all new engine. Increase the redline, lighten the flywheel, give it a more sports-car type of feel. This was a rush job.

    3) Skyactiv-X. Promising tech. Offers MPG benefits no doubt. However, where the heck is it? My guess? It offers decent MPG benefits for the places in the world that every last 0.001L/100km matters, but for the USA, the engine I suspect makes barely any additional power, and nobody cares about the $200/year savings at the pump. That’s why they’re delaying. It will be too expensive to equip and not offer enough benefit. A similar problem to diesel engined cars, which brings me to my next point…

    4) Diesel Engine. My god, how many years has this been delayed? They finally release it and….thoroughly mediocre MPG. Why did they even bother?

    I like Mazda cars a lot. They’re enjoyable to drive. But their engine plans are simply blowing in the breeze.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      And it’s not like they have much money to waste either! The ND supposedly wouldn’t have happened without the Fiat partnership. But somehow they keep finding money to waste on this pointless engine tech.

      I like some of their cars too but this whole charade has been disappointing.

    • 0 avatar
      SPPPP

      1) I think Mazda’s fuel economy targets are fine. As of 2016, they were beating their targets for US CAFE economy and greenhouse gases (or GHG, which factors in non-tailpipe emissions like your A/C refrigerant). I haven’t seen last year’s numbers released in full. The one downside I have seen mentioned is that people like the CX-5 so much more than the 3 and 6 that it has skewed Mazda’s averages down a bit. It’s also probably much more profitable than those cars, so I guess Mazda is happy to burn a few banked credits in exchange for cash.

      Also, if, as some people here say, the ICE is a dead tech walking, then Mazda will need something electric to sell. Now they have it. Future-proof?

      2) Maybe it was a rush job to use the 2.0. Maybe Mazda had planned some kind of engine-sharing with Fiat that didn’t work out. We may never know all the details. Still, the improvements are in place now, and they still sell the Miata. It seems to have worked out reasonably well.

      3) Skyactiv-X is on the order books in Europe right now. Supposedly, cars will be delivered this fall. It’s true that gas savings are less important in the US. However, I think Mazda’s choice to be proactive in ICE development may yet pay off. Mazda knows that not all people want hybrids or BEVs, and they are positioning themselves to sell ICE cars that meet current and future fuel economy standards. I think this is smart. Better than spending a billion dollars on mobility vaporware or electric scooter-sharing arrangements.

      Also, it seems clear to me that Mazda knew it could spend the money on ICE development because of their partnership with Toyota, who is a leader in hybrid technology. Toyota had the advantage there, so Mazda entered a tag-team arrangement that can work well for both parties. What if Toyota decides to combine Hybrid Synergy Drive with Skyactiv-X ICE technology? That could yield another major improvement in efficiency. And it might send piles of cash back to Mazda for the technology license.

      4) The diesel situation was unfortunate. When development started, Mazda could not have foreseen the firestorm that VW’s scandal would unleash. I think that, by the time the full ramifications became clear, Mazda had already spent so much money that they figured they were stuck with finishing it. At least in certain non-USA markets, they may be able to recoup something on the investment. Oh well.

    • 0 avatar
      conundrum

      Yeah, you’re right about the initial 2.0l in the MX-5 in the US and Canada, but I thought it was common knowledge. Everywhere else the Miata MX-5 has a 1.5L SkyActiv four tuned for 130 hp. The 2.0 liter 155 hp Mazda3 engine they shoveled into the North American version was last minute awareness that everyone would growl about this and that, especially 1496 cc. So they tuned up the 2.0l engine the next year or so to the same spec as the 1.5l and made 181 hp and a lot more revs. There’s a Baruth review of the 1.5l MX-5 somewhere on the net.

      From what I’ve read about SkyActiv-X it will be replacing the diesel in Europe first, then Australia. The SkyActiv diesel is out-of-date compared to Euro engines, and really wasting money would be developing a new one. Honda isn’t bothering. Don’t know about Toyota, but in Europe they’ve gone full hybrid instead. Imagine how many of that dopey looking Camry hybrid, recently reintroduced as a nameplate in Europe, they’re going to sell. Not.

      With any luck, the SkyActiv-X we get here will have a few more cc of displacement. They used the 2.2 diesel block for the 2.0l version, so a bit more displacement shouldn’t be too difficult.

      • 0 avatar
        mike978

        Sounds like their engine plans are sensible. Replace the diesel with the X, roll out the X to markets that care about fuel economy (EU). Working with Toyota makes sense on hybrids and EVs. The MX5 was a rush job for the US market – called being responsive to market conditions.

  • avatar
    mcs

    They should name their electrics RX and bill them as the evolution of the rotary engine. Show a gas rotary morphing into an electric.

  • avatar
    conundrum

    Mazda is a lot bigger than Subaru, by volume about 60% (1.6 million versus 1.0 million). Subaru is so dependent on the US, over 70% of its production is sold there, but at least Mazda is competitive worldwide unlike Subaru.

    Subaru is the dinky little auto company of Japan.

    What the post author thinks Toyota have taught Subaru is beyond me. The D4S in the BRZ/GT86 is about it. Subaru didn’t take the bait on dual port and DI injection on any of its models after that initial fiasco and god knows how many replaced engines with popped DI injectors, chirping high pressure fuel pumps, etc. Toyota don’t even know how to make their cars go around corners like Subaru, and subbed out the Supra to BMW.

    Toyota has a hybrid system that works – might as well flog it to its rivals in which it has some stock share and make some loot.

    • 0 avatar
      bullnuke

      Suzuki left the exit door ajar when it left the USDM for the rest of the world where it actually is successful. Mazda, a company that does not seem to understand how to successfully compete in the USDM since parting with Ford, might be wise to use that door.


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