DETROIT -- Mazda's determination to build fun-to-drive products won't change when it brings an electrified vehicle to the market, says Masahiro Moro, CEO of Mazda North American Operations.
The automaker is stacking the building blocks now for an electrified future. Its Skyactiv-X engine, slated for a 2019 rollout, is a key piece in Mazda's effort to curb CO2 emissions.
Moro said Skyactiv-X will be an "important base engine to add electrification" to the Mazda lineup.
The "base engine has to be efficient first, then we are able to add hybrid on top of that." Moro added that Mazda is preparing "a pure battery EV" to comply with California's zero-emission vehicle mandate.
He said it'll be up to engineers to rise to the challenge and retain Mazda's fun factor in an electrified vehicle.
"Our engineers will enjoy another new challenge to make an EV to be a true Mazda with driving performance. That's what customers expect from Mazda," Moro told Automotive News.
Amid the EV talk, Mazda will continue to pull every bit of potential from the internal combustion engine with Skyactiv-X. Combining characteristics of diesel engines and conventional gasoline engines, Skyactiv-X uses spark plug ignition "to control compression ignition, resulting in dramatic improvements across a range of important performance indicators."
Mazda says Skyactiv-X "combines the free-revving characteristics of a gasoline engine with the fuel efficiency, torque and fast initial response of a diesel unit."
Many automakers have had electrified offerings on roads for years, but consumer demand has been tepid. As a smaller company with limited development resources, Mazda has been content to follow the consumer market rather than lead it, and says it will unveil an electrified vehicle at an opportune time.
"Right now, battery costs are expensive. Because they're not big volume, the product development equation is not going to be so nice, but this is important future investment," Moro said on the sidelines of the Automotive News World Congress. "It doesn't make sense to push harder to sell electric vehicles. You need to be aware of what's going to happen if vehicles return to the used market. We need to think about the whole life cycle."