By on June 21, 2019

A Mazda inline-six cylinder engine developed for a rear wheel-drive-based platform has been industry knowledge since news broke in May. But new reporting from Best Car in Japan confirm that Toyota/Lexus and Mazda will share that rear wheel-drive platform and inline-six engine.

Mazda’s inline-six engine development will include Skyativ-X (gasoline) and Skyativ-D (diesel) variants, mounted longitudinally. Additionally, a 48-volt mild-hybrid electrical system and all-wheel-drive variants will be offered. The question is what this has to do with Toyota.

First, this would not be a new relationship between the two Japanese carmakers. They are teaming up on a plant to build Corollas and a new crossover in Huntsville, AL. Whether that new model is exclusively a Mazda, or a shared platform with Toyota, remains to be seen. There are currently no decisive indications that it will be a shared platform, but it makes one wonder.

Toyota has figured out that low-volume models are not worth the investment in design, development, and manufacturing without teaming up with another manufacturer. As evidence, we’ve seen the joint Subaru development for the 86, the BMW partnership for the “Zupra” (can I trademark that?), and — let’s not forget — the Mazda 2 and Scion/Toyota iA. Mazda also teamed up with Fiat to turn the MX-5 in to the 124 Spyder and Abarth.

The effort to duplicate other manufacturer’s vehicles into Toyotas is minor compared to the entire product development budget. The economies of scale can be shown to enable the vehicles to be built profitably, but only when sharing development costs. Selling two versions under two brand names doesn’t hurt when the second brand is one as respected as Toyota.

Thus far, Toyota has leveraged other manufacturer’s platforms and powertrains, massaging them to fit in their showrooms. This allows them to focus on their strengths and leverage the more unique platforms from others. Development costs are highest when trying to do something new or different. Essentially, if it doesn’t fit into Toyota’s New Global Architecture, they’ll seek a partnership to fill that niche.

It works for both parties, too. Exchange of technology is often part of the deal, which can help the other manufacturers improve their strength in other market segments. They’re also selling more of the cars that they are manufacturing, helping to pay off those development costs and keep their plants profitable.

Toyota may be continuing the trend and, rather than designing their own next-generation RWD platform, they’ve opted to team up with another partner to distribute the development costs. The new inline-six engine might just be part of the deal. They didn’t change the engines in the iA, 86, or Z4/Supra, as that would negate the cost sharing benefits.

The new platform could either be a Mazda6 replacement, or supplemental premium sedan. According to Best Car, the Lexus IS is slated to be moved to a TNGA platform, with V6 power. While the shared platform could replace the Lexus IS for the 2022 Model Year, it seems counter-intuitive that the car would be developed and replaced only two years later. They speculate a new coupe that sits between the RC and LC, though that also seems like a narrow gap to shoot for.

What would make sense to me is if the IS platform was stretched for another couple years by a minor model change. Then, the new platform would underpin the next IS sedan and RC coupe. If they are to actually hit the 2022 MY deployment, then early prototypes should be running around as soon as next year.

[Images: Mazda]

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

Recommended

55 Comments on “Why a Joint Toyota-Mazda RWD Platform and Inline-6 Engine Makes Sense...”


  • avatar
    Pig_Iron

    Any speculation about specifications? Would it be an extension of someone’s existing four? Displacement? No. of OHCs? VVT system? NA or turbo? Block material? Iron cylinder liner? Whose manufacturing plant?

  • avatar
    pinkslip

    While I am excited for Mazda to go more up-market and for them to develop an inline six, I have lower expectations than their own excitement suggests. I predict an NA 3.0 Skyactiv-G making a disappointing 230-ish HP as the “base” six, with a 370 HP turbo + mild-hybrid variant gracing the top trims along with a $4000 price hike for the drive train alone.

    What I HOPE they make is a 3.0 or 3.7 Skyactiv-G turbo with no hybridization, mated to an 8-speed auto, in a lift-back sedan design functionally similar to the Kia Stinger, VW Arteon, and Audi A7. Basically, make a better-quality Stinger, Mazda!

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      The I6 will be built on Sky-X & next gen Sky-D, not Sky-G. Based on the European stats for the 2L Sky-X, a 3L I6 should have ~267 hp & ~247 lb-ft.

      Mazda doesn’t use an 8-speed transmission, largely because they claim the efficient ‘sweet spot’ of their engines (particularly Sky-X) is wide enough that more gears is not beneficial.

  • avatar
    ajla

    It’ll be hard to make a 6-cylinder car in 2022 that runs a 15.7 quarter mile but if anyone can pull it off it is Mazda.

    • 0 avatar
      SPPPP

      Haters gonna hate. Meanwhile, in 2022, Mazda will be one of the only places to get an entertaining RWD inline-6 car. BMW may still sell 6-cylinders by then, but the cars don’t seem very entertaining lately.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    The idea of a RWD Mazda 6 is great, but will the thing sell? I don’t think so.

    But if this is what Mazda is after, I wish them well.

  • avatar
    dwford

    So we can expect the next generation of Lexus sedans to prematurely rust in the rear wheel wells.

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      You are seriously delusional. I have 3 of them outside. They are better than any Toyota

    • 0 avatar
      Maymar

      For what it’s worth, I live in a pretty rust-intensive place that buys a ton of Mazdas. It wasn’t unthinkable to see a severely corroded 1st gen 3 while they were still in production, but the 2nd gen (the smiley face ones) have been around over a decade, and I’ve only seen one awful one.

      My 2’s 5 years old, and also only has average surface rust, but no body bubbling yet.

      • 0 avatar
        slavuta

        We have moderate salting. My 98 Protege lasted 16+ years and then some more (I sold it). My current 2 smily-faced Mazda3 cars are INDESTRUCTIBLE. ’10 got its 1st issue at 140K – fan blower resistor. I like! (Borat voice)

    • 0 avatar

      I hope they’ve sorted those issues. My 2004 RX-8 was rusting while still under a 30 month lease. It was a specific water drainage problem with the rear doors.

  • avatar
    vanpressburg

    I would buy Lexus IS 200t as it is now, if it had MT.

  • avatar
    Dan R

    If only.

  • avatar
    FormerFF

    It would make even more sense for Toyota to take Mazda over entirely. Mazda is too small to survive long term.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      Yes it would. And Mazda cars handle better than Toyota’s.

      But I do not believe that Toyota buyers would embrace Mazda handling in their Toyota vehicles, and that would happen, along with some other combining of elements to make the take-over financially viable for Toyota.

      It would make no sense for Toyota to entirely take over Mazda and run it as a separate company. Thus, for the sake of economies of scale, tech would be shared between the two brands, to reduce costs.

    • 0 avatar

      TNGA is basically Skyactiv, 7 or 8 years later. So, it could make sense.
      Eventually, the world will evolve into one or two big car manufacturers.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      Mazda has already survived 40 years; how can you say they can’t survive ‘long term’?

      • 0 avatar
        FormerFF

        For one thing, their home market is greying and shrinking, and Japan has a lot of carmakers, more than a country of its size can support.

        How many years was Chrysler an independent automaker?

        • 0 avatar
          Vulpine

          @ FormerFF: How many years was Chrysler an independent automaker?

          Nearly 90 years, my friend. And in its way, it still is as Chrysler restored Fiat far more than Fiat restored Chrysler.

          • 0 avatar
            FormerFF

            OK, then how long was Fiat an independent carmaker? My point is simple, a long and storied history doesn’t guarantee a future.

            Studebaker produced automobiles for 64 years.

        • 0 avatar
          ToddAtlasF1

          Is seventy-three years nearly ninety?

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            @ToddAtlasF1: “Is seventy-three years nearly ninety?”

            1923 to 2008 gets pretty close at 85 years, my friend. And if we accept that Chrysler ended up saving Fiat, then we can push it to 96 years. Yes?

      • 0 avatar
        scott25

        Don’t forget Mazda was partners with Ford for a significant chunk of time

        • 0 avatar
          Vulpine

          So? You forget Chrysler-Mitsubishi; you forget GM-Isuzu and GM-Toyota and so many others. Just because Mazda partnered with Ford for a few years doesn’t mean Mazda couldn’t have made it on its own. Even now Toyota has partnered with Mazda and FCA is attempting to partner with Renault-Nissan and in FCA’s case it isn’t necessarily for survival since they can obviously survive with Jeep and Ram among the largest moneymakers in the industry (as separate brands.)

          Your argument does not refute the fact that Mazda has survived quite a long time as an OEM–in fact, next year makes them 100 years old as a brand.

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      Mazda posting record global sales. For this year they still stick with $750M net profit

    • 0 avatar
      bullnuke

      Mazda is not that small. In the USDM, yes, but worldwide not so much. They are a flailing, somewhat failing brand in the USDM but do very well outside in the rest of the world where 75% of their market exists. They would be better served if they, perhaps, focused on where they make money and not so much attempting to be seen as some sort of entry level luxury vehicle in a market where they are tanking. They will survive nicely outside the USDM without Toyota.

      • 0 avatar
        deanst

        Umm, North America is Mazda’s largest market so I don’t know what your point is.

        • 0 avatar
          bullnuke

          Sorry. No, North America is not Mazda’s largest market. Try again.

          • 0 avatar
            redav

            “North America is not Mazda’s largest market. Try again.”

            Okay, let’s look at their fiscal report:
            https://www.mazda.com/globalassets/en/assets/investors/library/presentation/files/pre190509_e.pdf

            By sales, NA is their largest market for 2018 & 2019 fiscal years. And it is forecasted to be their largest market by sales in 2020.
            By revenue, NA is their largest market for 2018 & 2019 fiscal years.

          • 0 avatar
            bullnuke

            redav – from your graciously provided pdf link – North American volume for Mazda FY2019 – 0.421M units. Rest of the world combined volume FY2019 – 1.141M units for a combined total volume of 1.561M units. Using a bit of math magic, North American volume is about 27% of the total. From this Mazda provided report, the world market outside North America is its largest market by far. It is extremely hard to believe that that other-world 72% is being sold so cheaply that North American market revenue exceeds it – they must be selling cars for $2.99 in Oz, China, and Europe for that to be the case. So, no, North America is not Mazda’s largest market in revenue nor volume. The rest of the world is by far.

          • 0 avatar
            redav

            “no, North America is not Mazda’s largest market in revenue nor volume. The rest of the world is by far.”

            That’s not how “markets” work, but OK, you believe whatever you want.

          • 0 avatar
            scott25

            Yes, as everyone knows, all manufacturers have two markets, “North America” and “Rest of World”

      • 0 avatar
        slavuta

        bullnuke,

        admit, NA – biggest market for Mazda.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    I wonder if this is in addition to the Toyota/Subaru mashup or a replacement?

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    Return of the I6, 1st MB brings it back and now JDMs. I’m happy.

  • avatar
    JMII

    An inline 6 pretty much forces a long nose with a RWD layout… seems like a odd choice as not many strong selling vehicles fit that profile.

  • avatar
    bd2

    If this indeed is the case, hardly surprising.

    Lexus RWD sedans don’t sell much over in Japan and sales have been shrinking rapidly here, so not worth it for Toyota to spend the $ on R&D as prospects for ROI aren’t that promising.

    If one is going to use platforms/engines from other automakers, BMW and Mazda aren’t bad choices.

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    Some smart person here can explain to me how Toyota can make money buying Mazda2s and rebranding them, but Mazda can’t make enough money selling them themselves. I kind of like the 2020 hatchback, but I’m not sure I want my Mazda serviced by a Toyota dealer.

    • 0 avatar
      SPPPP

      Maybe Toyota doesn’t make money on those rebranded 2s, but still believes in the concept of pulling in loyal customers while they are young by having a cheap car to sell them.

      Either way, it’s nice to have the option to buy a cheap and pleasant little car.

      • 0 avatar
        scott25

        Agree with that, Toyota wants a full range, and a subcompact for first time buyers is important there. The Tercel, Echo and Yaris have always filled that role.

  • avatar
    bts

    What I’m wondering is why didn’t GM and Ford collaborate on midsize and small cars instead of leaving the market entirely? Possibly share platforms or other methods to save costs.

    If Toyota and Mazda can do it on a niche sports car it would make even more sense on cars which are likely to make a comeback when has prices rise.

  • avatar
    Hogey74

    I’m glad to hear this. The end is now in sight for Jurrasic juice and it makes sense for the incumbents to work together on this. When the Mazda annoucement came I was frikkin happy to be reminded that there are some enthusiasts in the industry who are mindful of the history. I am about to buy an MX5 Miata that I will never sell. And it’s been on my mind to own a straight six or a 90 degree V8 before they’re gone or too expensive to be practical to run.

    My first car was an old GM 202 six and nothing has been that smooth since. I nearly bought a BMW x5, a lot of it for the six. But I don’t regret cheaping out on the Forester :-)

  • avatar
    namesakeone

    Inline six in a RWD platform sounds enticing–until it starts to sound like another SUV.

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    Remember when Toyota built their own world class online 6 motors? Peppridge Farm remembers.

  • avatar
    StudeDude

    Mazda is performing a developmental function for Toyota much like Lotus has in the past for other manufacturers. They are smaller and more nimble than Toyota and have the Skyactiv X tech as a roadmap to the ICE future. Toyota is using their relationship to make a more profitable and interesting set of automobiles whether they be Toyotas or Lexus branded. And, Mazda can share the platforms to lower their costs. It’s a win-win.

  • avatar
    scott25

    The most obvious use of this platform is to fill the gaping hole in the Lexus lineup between the RX and GX (the RX L Is just a half-assed stopgap). A RWD CX-9 that moves slightly upmarket could be a hit as well with non-badge snobs who just want something that feels classy and quality, but it’ll hardly make such an impact on sales to make the investment worth it.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    Sergio was right. There are over a dozen 2.0T 4 poppers for sale. Why? The industry is so commoditized I don’t know that much would be lost if they all moved to common powerplants. They are already doing this with transmissions (ZF8, ZF9, Aisin 8), AWD systems (Haldex) and other components I’m sure. And they can add their own flavor after the fact (Supra vs Z4).

    Personally, I hope to grab and hold on to something more unique soon. But the logical direction of the industry is obvious.

    • 0 avatar

      This is my favorite example, as well. Why are there not just a couple global 1.998 cc 4-cylinders that are then sold to the manufacturers to throw their custom tuning on? Its like they each have to invent their own wheel. And, generally, I don’t want any of them.


Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • Anthony Magagnoli: This is my favorite example, as well. Why are there not just a couple global 1.998 cc 4-cylinders...
  • sirwired: Could be worse, they could be Smart dealers.
  • Anthony Magagnoli: I hope they’ve sorted those issues. My 2004 RX-8 was rusting while still under a 30 month...
  • Hydromatic: New car smell gives me a headache. Gotta keep the windows open while the whole interior’s...
  • deanst: Wow – an overpriced and unreliable small car fails to gain popularity in America. Who would have...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Staff

  • Contributors

  • Timothy Cain, Canada
  • Matthew Guy, Canada
  • Ronnie Schreiber, United States
  • Bozi Tatarevic, United States
  • Chris Tonn, United States
  • Corey Lewis, United States
  • Mark Baruth, United States
  • Moderators

  • Adam Tonge, United States
  • Corey Lewis, United States