YOKOHAMA, Japan - Mazda Motor Corp., facing a year with no new models in its home Japanese market, last week showed four new platforms and several new engines it plans to bring to market by the end of 2003.
In addition to the RX-8 sports car shown at the Detroit auto show in January, the lineup includes a mid-sized wagon, a small car and a compact car.
The new platforms will cover 70 percent of Mazda's volume, said Kei Kado, senior managing director in charge of r&d and quality assurance.
As the company builds more derivatives on the new platforms, Mazda will be significantly increasing its market coverage, he said.
Doubts about Mazda
The unusual display of future products was prompted by concerns over Mazda's performance in the Japanese market. During a question period, several Japanese reporters grilled President Mark Fields about what they termed Mazda's 'no growth' prospects, lack of new products in the Japanese market this year, and its likelihood of successfully convincing 1,800 workers to take early retirement by March 31.
Fields responded that the company's mid-term plan will eventually lead to growth. He pointed out that Mazda will launch new models in both Europe and North America this year. He conceded, however, that it has no new models for Japan in 2001.
The sparring was reminiscent of Nissan Motor Co.'s Carlos Ghosn's statement, as he unveiled Nissan's best first-half profits in a decade, that Nissan's recovery would always be suspect in Japan until it began to regain market share in the home market.
The Mazda lineup:
A mid-sized wagon to be launched next year. In Japan and Europe, Mazda also will offer sedan and five-door hatchback versions. The is the apparent replacement for the 626.
The models will come with new powertrains. They include: 1.8- and 2.0-liter gasoline engines in Europe and Japan; a 2.3-liter variable-valve timing gasoline engine in Europe, Japan and North America; a 3.0-liter V-6 variable-valve timing engine with five-speed transmission in North America; and a 2.0-liter direct-injection common rail diesel engine in Europe.
A new small hatchback, also driven by new powertrains.
They include 1.3- and 1.5-liter aluminum-block I-4 engines mated to continuously variable transmissions, plus direct-injection gasoline engines and all-new diesel engines.
The new small car will be built in Japan from 2002 and in Europe from 2003. Executives did not mention any plans for North America.
A compact sedan and hatchback scheduled to come to market in 2003, apparently to replace the Protege. It, too, will be built in Japan and Europe. The version shown last week had door handles built into the window cladding similar to the RX-7 design. But Philip Martens, managing director in charge of product strategy, design and product development, said the styling for the compact sedan was not fixed.
Engine choices will include 2.0- and 2.3-liter I-4 engines in North America, 1.5- and 2.3-liter engines in Japan, and in Europe, 1.4-, 1.6-, and 2.0-liter gasoline engines as well as 1.6- and 2.0-liter common rail diesel engines. Continuously variable transmissions and direct-injection gasoline engines also will be part of the mix.
The RX-8. Officially, the car still must get program approval. Mazda expects to begin building the car in late 2002.