TOKYO - Mazda Motor Corp. may send its new Premacy compact minivan to the United States after all.
Mazda originally believed American buyers would not be interested in the Premacy, which is slightly larger than the failed Nissan Axxess. Besides that, the company believes the newly redesigned MPV, which debuts this summer, should satisfy its need for an American people mover.
But Mazda North American Operations has been intrigued by the Premacy's compact packaging and is rethinking its decision.
Influencing Mazda's thinking: the ongoing erosion of the small sedan market, said Martin Leach, Mazda managing director in charge of product planning. 'Five years from now, I'm not sure how much of a market there'll be for traditional cars in the Corolla-like segment. It's cratering,' he said.
Based on the same platform as the Familia, known as the Protege and 323 overseas, the Premacy is Mazda's first entry into what the company calls the 'spacewagon' segment. It will compete against the Toyota Spacio, Nissan Tino, and Mitsubishi RVR - none of which is sold in North America.
Japanese prices for the five-passenger version start at about $14,050, at current exchange rates.
Mazda is aiming for sales of 3,000 Premacys a month in Japan and 2,500 more when exports begin to Europe, Asia and Oceania. Mazda President James Miller 'reminds me every week' that those targets are conservative, said Mark Fields, a Mazda senior adviser.
The Premacy is Mazda's first all-new model in Japan since the Demio nearly three years ago. It is available as a five- or seven-seater with flexible seating arrangements. The final row in the seven-seat version weighs 39.6 pounds and can be lifted out easily. With the third row removed and the second row double-folded, the Premacy can carry two mountain bikes.
The van-wagon measures 169.1 inches long by 66.7 inches wide by 61.8 inches tall, and rides on a 105-inch wheelbase. It weighs 2,794 pounds. Powering the vehicle is a 1.8-liter in-line four-cylinder engine putting out 135 hp. teamed with an electronically controlled four-speed automatic transmission.
A slightly longer four-wheel-drive version also is available.
Behind the pop-out cupholders in the front is a storage compartment that can hold up to seven compact discs. The driver-side power window can be operated for up to 30 seconds after the key is removed from the ignition. Side airbags for the front passengers are optional.
Among other features, it comes with an air filter that absorbs unpleasant odors and uses a chemical reaction to clean the air. The new filter is about 100 times more effective than an activated-charcoal filter, Mazda said.
Mazda bills the Premacy as the first vehicle based entirely on the company's new product philosophy of 'distinctive design, exceptional functionality and responsible handling and performance.' It also is the first to embrace Mazda's declared brand personality of 'stylish, insightful and spirited.' It carries Mazda's five-pointed grille, which is to become common across the Mazda model line.
The Premacy also marks Mazda's fastest vehicle-development ever. It went from concept to Job 1 in 23 months.