Mazda Boss Says MX-5 Will Never Die, But What Will It Become?

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

With the current-generation Mazda MX-5 nearing the end of its lifecycle, there are a lot of questions about what exactly its successor will be like. The ND Miata has effectively built on the foundation of its predecessors without changing the recipe. But increasingly strict regulatory environments and changes in consumer tastes have left questions about whether or not the MX-5 will become electrified. There have also been rumors that Mazda may simply abandon the vehicle, as there don’t appear to be any firm development plans for it just yet.

Mazda’s European CEO, Martijn ten Brink, has attempted to assuage any concerns by stating that the MX-5 will probably be around “forever.” Though he did admit that the manufacturer hadn’t committed itself to the technical makeup of the next-gen Miata.

“How do you stay true to the concept of what the car stands for taking it into the next generation of technologies?” the CEO told Autocar. “That’s not been decided. But I think for Mazda it would be fair to say that the MX-5 will never die.”

The outlet said that Mazda has confirmed the current MX-5 will be made compliant with new GSR2 safety regulations by the end of 2023. But these are the same European regulations that shortened the lifespan of the Toyota GR86 and focus on an array of “safety rules” that force automakers to include things like “intelligent speed assistance” and driver behavior monitoring technologies. It’s wildly dystopian and guarantees that any volume models are loaded up with electronic nannies and data recorders.

Considering that the MX-5 is supposed to be a simple, lightweight, and budget-conscious roadster stressing the fundamentals, it’s not unrealistic to think some of these new regulations could spoil the recipe. But Mazda leadership doesn’t want anybody to freak about technology mandates or emissions caps just yet. Unfortunately, some of the surrounding language makes it sound like the Miata could eventually be re-imagined into something wholly different.

“I think it will continue to exist forever and it will have to go with the times. That’s a super challenge, and people are passionate about this car in Mazda,” ten Brink continued. “Of course, as you can imagine, people have opinions on which direction it should go. So I’m very curious where it will end up, but it will definitely remain part of the line-up.”

From Autocar:

In a wide-ranging interview at the Brussels motor show, ten Brink also discussed Mazda designers exploring new shapes and sizes for its models that major on aerodynamic efficiency when its new scalable electric architecture arrives in 2025.
“I think everybody is really happy in the company with the performance of our crossovers and the advantages that they offer,” said ten Brink. “But I think everybody is also looking at what are the polar possibilities in terms of design of new electrified products.
“How do we go? Do we go to a new shape? That’s what our designers are experimenting with. I look forward also to vehicles that are not necessarily SUVs or crossovers.” He added: “We need to think about aerodynamics in a different way. I think we’re going to get more diversity in terms of design from all the different brands. And I think also our experiments for design will take us into new directions, but they will definitely have to be super-aerodynamic.”

Meanwhile, the MX-5 is supposed to continue receiving updates until its successor is ready to hit the stage. We just don’t know when that will be. Based on Mazda’s previous development cycles for the Miata, the next one is due to arrive by 2025. However, with the company claiming it hasn’t even decided on the technical makeup of the car, that date could get pushed back.

There are also concerns about Mazda having to appease global markets. While this is an issue for all automakers selling in markets across the world, the brand is quite a bit smaller than many of its rivals. Ten Brink suggested that this meant the company couldn’t have vehicles dedicated to specific regions. It’ll have to build vehicles based on whatever the strictest regulations are. This presumably means stringent emissions and safety mandates being advanced in Europe will directly impact vehicles sold in the United States.

“We need to be successful in Japan, in Australia, the US, and Europe, with by and large the same vehicles. This is an enormous challenge for a smaller manufacturer because we can’t go all in on one thing,” he said. “That is where the larger manufacturers have, of course, a bit of a luxury but also maybe didn’t have to be so open about what they do in the rest of the world because they can focus their communication far more on ‘this is our story for Europe’, ‘this is our story for North America’. We need to have the same story across the globe.”

That’s understandable. However, there are likely a lot of people that would hate to see the Miata turned into another Eclipse Cross or converted into a portly EV.

[Image: Steve Lagreca/Shutterstock]

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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 39 comments
  • Lifino Lifino on Feb 01, 2023

    Seeing as it was originally based on a Lotus, I would love to see Mazda sell the rights to the NA to Caterham.

    As for the NE, this is just me, I would actually be okay with a short range focus with full electric. MX-5 is a compromise vehicle and as such in many garages it waits for nice weather on the weekend; limit it to slow charge and 120 mile range can keep weight down a bit and it could still satisfy 80% of the people who buy.

    It is a model which exists because of the driving dynamics, moving from ICE is such a fundamental change that the reason for its existence will potentially be lost. If Mazda can’t deliver the dynamics, they should put it to pasture until the technology exists to revive it and do it right.

    The trap of electric is it makes crazy HP/Torque figures accessible, but this was never the point of the MX-5, it has been tasked with being a modern Elan. It isn’t a road-tripping SUV, so don’t try to make it do that. Practice restraint and continue to ask the customer to accept compromise; that has worked for over thirty years.

  • Danddd Danddd on Feb 01, 2023

    Seems to be a great balanced electric sports car option if they can keep the Miata soul intact.

  • Carguy949 You point out that Rivian and Tesla lack hybrids to “bring home the bacon”, but I would clarify that Tesla currently makes a profit while Rivian doesn’t.
  • Cprescott I'm sure this won't matter to the millions of deceived Honduh owners who think the company that once prided itself on quality has somehow slipped in the real world. Same for Toyoduhs. Resting on our Laurel's - Oh, what a feeling!
  • Jrhurren I had this happen numerous times with my former Accord. It usually occurred when on a slow right curve in the road. Somehow the system would get confused and think the opposite lane (oncoming traffic) was an impending head-on collision.
  • Cprescott The Ford Shamaro is ugly, thick bodied, and a Mustang pretender.
  • Analoggrotto Speaking of mud, does anyone here enjoy naked mud wrestling?