Japan's little 3 lean on partnerships
These are exciting times for Japan's little three. Mazda and Subaru are preparing to launch electrified vehicles in the U.S. — including their first plug-ins — and take advantage of their partnerships with Toyota, while Mitsubishi is moving ahead with the backing of Renault-Nissan in an alliance that will result in new platforms, cost savings and shared technologies.
Masahiro Moro, CEO of Mazda North American Operations, told Automotive News this year that Mazda engineers will enjoy the challenge of crafting an EV with the driving characteristics consumers expect from the brand.
At the same time, the brand is pushing the limits of combustion engines with improvements to its Skyactiv-G engines and the development of its Skyactiv-X technology, expected to hit the streets in 2019. Combining characteristics of diesel engines and conventional gasoline engines, Skyactiv-X uses spark plug ignition to control compression ignition, "resulting in dramatic improvements" in efficiency and performance, Mazda says.
Mitsubishi is looking to continue a five-year run of U.S. sales gains with backing from its new alliance partners and a set of new crossovers. It released the Eclipse Cross this year and the Outlander PHEV in late 2017.
Fred Diaz, who became CEO of Mitsubishi Motors North America in April, says each alliance partner has enticing safety and powertrain technology that can be shared across its lineup.
A Mitsubishi vehicle built on an alliance platform could be introduced by 2022. Mitsubishi Motors Corp. COO Trevor Mann said in April that alliance engineers are working on common platforms and powertrains.
Subaru labored to get back into the U.S. three-row crossover market with its Ascent. The redesigned Forester is the next to arrive at dealerships this fall, before a coming round of fresh products. Subaru will also bring a Crosstrek plug-in hybrid variant to the U.S. by year end, the first PHEV it will offer in its largest market.
Subaru's commitment to its sedans will be on display when a redesigned Legacy arrives in 2019 as a 2020 model. The Outback, Subaru's top U.S. seller despite being toward the end of its current life cycle, is also set for a redesign in 2019.
Send us a letter
Have an opinion about this story? Click here to submit a Letter to the Editor, and we may publish it in print.