"We have a dream that one day, this design with a rotary engine will achieve a level that customers will accept," Kogai told reporters through an interpreter last week. "We have rotary-engine fans," he added, "and they will not be satisfied if we have the same exact rotary engine from before."
This might seem like a halo car: a low-volume bit of eye candy to boost the Mazda brand. Yet for Mazda, the challenge itself is part of what makes the project so appealing.
The company has always prided itself on beating the odds to commercialize rotary engines, and now it wants to do that again.
Kiyoshi Fujiwara, Mazda's r&d chief, said the team working on the rotary engine project is small but dedicated. "These 50 engineers want to develop the rotary engine, therefore they joined Mazda," Fujiwara said.
"If I stop the rotary engine, probably [they'll] want to leave."
Mazda's prowess with rotary engines was crucial to the 787B racecar, which won the 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race in 1991, the only victory for a Japanese brand or a car with a rotary engine. Affixed to the hood of the racecar, parked in the museum at Mazda's headquarters in Hiroshima, is a sticker.
"Never give up," it says in English. And in Japanese, it says: "Just keep fighting."