Mazda Says Rear-Drive Mazda6 Replacement Isn't Happening

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

When Mazda announced it would be discontinuing the midsize Mazda6 sedan for the U.S. market, some were crestfallen. With the industry having spent the better part of a decade moving away from the body style to support models they could associate with higher price tags, there’s been a deficit of good sedans of late. But a seed of hope was left intact when the company announced it would be pulling the Mazda 6 from our market.

You see, the company had long been teasing a rear-drive variant utilizing a powerful inline-six motor. Mazda was also going upmarket, indicating the possibility of the model returning to do battle with midsized German products with a higher price tag. But it’s looking like the concept is going into the trash bin along with Mazda’s suggestion of bringing back RX performance vehicles and creating rotary range extenders for EVs.

Joachim Kunz, Mazda Europe’s engineering and development head, has basically told Autocar ( shared via CarBuzz) that the profit margin for crossovers is too juicy for the company to pursue something that would actually be fun for people to drive.

“It would be very nice … to have the [front-engine, rear-driven] concept and six-cylinder engine for a Mazda6 successor or a large sports coupe. We would like to have it, but at this point in time, it’s most important to sell SUVs.” Kunz stated. “This SUV trend is continuing, and even more for Mazda. It’s what’s selling best.”

Mazda has made and broken a lot of big promises over the last few years. While that’s hardly unique for any automaker, Mazda was previously obsessed with delivering engaging driving dynamics at prices that wouldn’t break the bank. It’s since opted to go upmarket but has gradually stepped away from the old Zoom-Zoom formula that underpinned its earlier ad campaigns. It still produces fun-to-drive automobiles, most notably the MX-5 and Mazda3 Turbo, but its current focus has shifted toward delivering handsomely styled vehicles with premium-feeling interiors.

This represents a victory in some respects. The fact that Mazda can deliver slightly underpowered crossovers that aren’t totally boring to drive is indeed praiseworthy. But it’s been missing something special ever since it dumped the RX-8 and nixed future MazdaSpeed variants. One might even suggest that it needs those vehicles if it’s seriously considering becoming a competitor to brands like BMW.

We’ve received reports from Japan for years that claimed an all-new Mazda6 was forthcoming. Rumored to be based on the 2017 Vision Coupe concept, the vehicle was supposed to utilize rear-drive-biased architecture. It was later suggested that the model might be a luxury successor to the midsize sedan, offering optional AWD and a higher-output, mild-hybrid motor. Mazda even hinted that such a car was in development on more than one occasion, only to continue introducing new crossover models as it hyped electrification.

But this looks to be the final nail in the coffin. In addition to Kunz being pretty frank about the importance of SUV sales, Mazda Australia’s marketing director was already attempting to soften the blow. Last month, Alastair Doak told Drive that the prospect of a rear-drive Mazda6 was an interesting one with “heaps of speculation around it.” But ultimately settled on its chances being poor due to the popularity of crossover vehicles.

“I guess, if you look around the world … [the] traditional car/sedan market has been shrinking for many years, not just in Australia, so I guess our priority globally will be the [rear-wheel-drive] Large Architecture and [Mazda’s SUVs],” Doak said.

[Image: Mazda]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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2 of 35 comments
  • John R John R on Mar 22, 2022

    Welp. Can't be surprised. A RWD inline-6 was kind of a big ask for Mazda. CUV/SUVs are a blight, but I've made my peace with it. Enthusiasts are just going to have to learn to be brand and region (Asia, Europe, US) flexible when it comes to these sort of products and take what we can get when and where we can get it.

  • DungBeetle62 DungBeetle62 on Mar 24, 2022

    They let me have one as a loaner when the Miata was having work done and it compared VERY favorably to the rental Camry I'd had on vacation. I just don't have a need for anything in that class. Lesson here, as with the Miata, sometimes it's the willingness to go where the others aren't in the market. If they can continue to make a business case for the Miata at those sales volumes with that amount of unique and not-easily-shared componentry, surely some of that know-how could conjure up a RWD Mazda 6?

  • Geozinger Put in the veggie garden (Western Michigan, we still can get frost this late in the year) finished the remainder of the landscaping updates and hand washed both my beater Pontiac and the Town and Country! Going to the beach today...
  • Rochester I wouldn't obsess over the rate of change, it's happening whether we want it or not.
  • EBFlex At the summer property putting boats in the water, leveling boat lifts, cleaning the lots for summer, etc. Typical cabin stuff in the most beautiful place on the planet
  • Lou_BC I've I spent the past few days in what we refer to as "the lower mainland". I see Tesla's everywhere and virtually every other brand of EV. I was in downtown Vancouver along side a Rivian R1T. A Rivian R1S came off as side street and was following it. I saw one other R1S. 18% of new vehicles in BC are EV'S. It tends to match what I saw out my windshield. I only saw 2 fullsized pickups. One was a cool '91 3/4 ton regular cab. I ran across 2 Tacoma's. Not many Jeeps. There were plenty of Porches, Mercedes, and BMW's. I saw 2 Aston Martin DBX707's. It's been fun car watching other than the stress of driving in big city urban traffic. I'd rather dodge 146,000 pound 9 axle logging trucks on one lane roads.
  • IBx1 Never got the appeal of these; it looks like there was a Soviet mandate to create a car with two doors and a roof that could be configured in different ways.