HIROSHIMA, Japan -- Masamichi Kogai, Mazda Motor Corp.'s cost-conscious CEO, says he has no plans to revive the discontinued RX sports car series. Instead, he wants to plow limited resources into improving the Skyactiv technologies that set the brand's bread-and-butter vehicles apart from the competition.
The move underscores the fragile state of Mazda's recovery and the challenge the CEO faces in keeping products competitive with the first round of Skyactiv redesigns already halfway over.
Mazda's seven-vehicle lineup is almost stretched to its max, Kogai said. It's time to focus on a new generation of improvements.
"It's difficult for us at present to further expand our lineup," Kogai told Automotive News at the company's headquarters here. "The company is still in the process of improving its financial structure. We want to focus our limited resources on the Skyactiv products that we have today."
Every nameplate except the CX-9 crossover and Mazda5 minivan has received a Skyactiv makeover. Skyactiv is the name Mazda gave to a variety of technologies behind a more efficient powertrain, lightweight body and sportier chassis.
The Skyactiv Mazda2 has yet to reach the U.S. but is on sale in Japan. The overhauled MX-5 Miata roadster was unveiled this year with a 2015 U.S. launch date. And a new CX-3 subcompact crossover based on the Mazda2 will debut this month at the Los Angeles Auto Show.
The big question for Kogai: What next? The small, export-reliant company is under pressure to meet increasingly stringent emissions standards around the world. But it lacks the deep r&d coffers of Japanese rivals Toyota Motor Corp., Nissan Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co.
When Kogai, 60, took office in June 2013, he inherited a company that had just recorded its first annual profit in five years.
In many ways, today's Mazda looks stronger than ever. It is booking record profits, U.S. sales are outpacing the industry's and it has rebalanced its global production footprint with a new plant in Mexico. Incentives are down; transaction prices are up.
But Kogai's challenge is keeping that momentum with a tight lineup and preparing future products on a shoestring budget.
"Mazda is at a turning point," said Takaki Nakanishi, an auto analyst with Jefferies Japan in Tokyo. "Consistent success will be determined by the next generation of products."
Kogai says his top immediate priority is achieving quality sales, not just higher volumes. Discipline will be key: He favors a more focused core lineup over flashy cars such as the RX-8, and lower incentives. So far, his strategy has been working.
Take the redesigned Mazda3 compact. U.S. sales fell 2 percent to 87,505 units through October. But Mazda says its share of retail, nonfleet sales in the compact segment is actually up.
Average incentives on the Mazda3 fell by half to $1,203 in the first nine months from the year-earlier period, according to TrueCar Inc. By contrast, average incentives for the entire compact segment rose 24 percent to $2,048.