Mazda Motor Corp.'s latest feature sounds like an easy sell.
Dubbed G-Vectoring, the elegantly simple system boosts handling and agility while reducing driver fatigue. Since it's software-based, the system adds no weight. Best of all, there's no additional cost; the system will be standard on the 2017 Mazda3 and Mazda6 and the rest of the lineup soon after that.
Simple, effective and free should be a marketing coup for any automaker. But Mazda, like other brands before it, is having a hard time figuring out how to advertise an innovative new feature that's invisible even when the driver gets on the road.
Such features include torque vectoring (both the cheapo brake-based kind and the real differential-based systems), Nissan's Active Trace Control, driver-adjustable magnetic or air suspensions, even Buick's HiPer Strut system designed to cut torque steer.
But there's more at stake for Mazda than for other brands that are pushing improved vehicle handling. Since it's effectively a niche player going up against industry heavyweights, any unique identity Mazda can carve out for itself matters. That is especially true in the brutally competitive compact and midsize car segments.
"These guys can't keep chasing the same formula as the Hondas and the Toyotas," Dave Sullivan, manager for product analysis at AutoPacific, said. "They know they have to do something different because going mainstream isn't going to work. It's an ugly segment to play in."
To its credit, Mazda freely admits it faces a challenge.
"Toyota sells more cars to [enthusiasts] than we do in total," Robert Davis, senior vice president for U.S. operations at Mazda North American Operations, told Automotive News. "I tell my guys; "We need to rescue those people.' Toyota and Honda make great cars, but [enthusiasts] shouldn't be buying those cars; they should be buying ours."