SHANGHAI -- Mazda design has gone through a lot of churn and burn in search of a look in recent years, but global design chief Ikuo Maeda pledges continuity under his watch.
Maeda, 51, says the Kodo design language, which will debut in the CX-5 crossover, will filter through the lineup in the coming years. Kodo is Japanese for "soul of motion."
Key elements include a toned-down grille with a stylized Mazda flying wing contour extending under the grille and over the headlamps. Maeda calls that styling cue the signature wing; it is meant to echo the wavy M in the Mazda logo.
The new look also includes what Maeda dubs "rear-loading," a kind of bunched-up-in-the-back look meant to convey a more dense, muscular form.
"It looks like an animal ready to pounce," Maeda said at the Shanghai auto show.
For years, Mazda had hyped the fluid, wavelike Nagare design language. But Nagare, which means "flow" in Japanese, appeared in only one production vehicle, the Mazda5 minivan, and only after Nagare's champion, former Mazda design chief Laurens van den Acker, left the company for Renault.
When Maeda took over in 2009, it didn't take him long to shift gears.
He is jettisoning Nagare's rippled surface treatment as well as the broad smiley-face grilles introduced by Van den Acker in cars such as the Mazda3.
Future versions of sedans will also have rear-loading with a shorter back deck, Maeda said.
The CX-5, based on the Minagi concept, will be the first showcasing Maeda's ideas. The CX-5 will debut in September at the Frankfurt auto show and go on sale in the United States next year.
"I want to overhaul the entire lineup this way. It will take more than three years," Maeda said. "It will take a long time, but that's what we'll do. And Kodo will evolve over time."
Maeda has ties to Mazda that likely will keep him in place longer than Van den Acker.
He is a career Mazda man -- and a second-generation one at that. Maeda designed the bold, muscular silhouette of today's RX-8 sports car. But a generation earlier, his father -- also a Mazda stylist -- designed the RX-8's spiritual ancestor, the original RX-7.