"We want to make clear to people that the [CX-50] product is designed primarily for North America and we employ a lot of people," Guyton said. "There is a pride point around that facility that goes beyond just building a new car."
The Alabama plant will give Mazda 150,000 units of capacity to grow in the American market with a larger compact crossover that complements the existing CX-5, the automaker's bestselling vehicle in the U.S. and globally.
Guyton dispelled speculation that the CX-50, which has a more rugged look, might replace the CX-5 in a few years. A similar situation happened when Mazda introduced the subcompact CX-30 in early 2020 and Mazda discontinued the smaller CX-3 a year later.
"The CX-5 is going to stay," Guyton said. "The CX-3 was just too small for the U.S. I'm not looking to replace the CX-5 with the CX-50. I very much want to take more of that 3 million-unit segment," Guyton said, referring to the small-crossover market where the CX-30, CX-5 and CX-50 compete with fierce rivals.
In Mazda's estimation, the CX-5 is the more urban, sophisticated offering while the CX-50 is for the outdoor adventure lifestyle.
"The CX-5 has done a great job of trying to be all things to all people in that segment," Guyton said. "There's a variety of ways the CX-50 is designed for more activities."
The CX-50 will also be Mazda's first hybrid in the U.S. market, although the automaker has not yet offered any details on the electrified version or its possible launch date. The gasoline CX-50 will arrive in showrooms early next year.
Guyton said that Mazda's approach to electrification is that the U.S. electric grid needs to be upgraded for mass EV adoption. Plug-in hybrids make sense in some cases, he added, because they allow drivers to make short trips on battery power while having a gasoline engine for longer journeys.
Mazda is focused on a "multi-solution approach" that will eventually include more electric vehicles.
In the meantime, Guyton said, the brand has a series of vehicles that will come out on its new "large platform" architecture.
The four future vehicles were designed with extra space for a plug-in hybrid system, Guyton said. They also will feature a new inline six-cylinder engine on a rear-wheel-drive architecture.