Mazda CEO Akira Marumoto is leading an electrification push that should help the Japanese automaker slash its carbon dioxide footprint. An emissions-pooling deal with Toyota should also help. In addition, Mazda is working with Toyota on electrification technologies, but Marumoto, 61, says Mazda's engines will remain part of his brand's identity. He discussed Mazda's challenges and outlook with Automotive News Europe Correspondent Andrea Malan.
Mazda CEO counts on new engine, EVs
Here are edited excerpts.
Q: Will the Mazda-Toyota development work help you reach Europe's stricter 2025 and 2030 CO2 targets? When will the first results of this cooperation come to market?
A: We do not develop any engines with Toyota. Mazda is a small company, so we have to focus on our uniqueness, and I believe our engines are very unique. If we share our engines with other companies, that would dilute our uniqueness. Therefore, we have no plans to do so. We are jointly developing a new EV architecture with Toyota, but we will first introduce our own EV on a Mazda architecture in 2020.
When will we drive a car with the Skyactiv-X engine?
That will happen within this calendar year.
How will Skyactiv-X engines affect Mazda's sales in the midterm?
Customers will decide. We have the manufacturing flexibility to produce all the different types of engines on the same line. The Skyactiv-X engine has a number of advantages, but we don't want to sell it cheap. Moving to a 10-year horizon, many of our engines will be replaced by Skyactiv-X and by further new-generation powertrains.
So is Mazda already working on the next generation of engines?
That is not a completely new architecture; it will be an evolution of Skyactiv-X.
At the same time, Mazda is not dropping diesel development?
As Skyactiv-X is a sort of hybrid between a gasoline and a diesel engine, we can use this technology to develop a new generation of diesels.
Will Mazda couple its diesel engines to a mild hybrid?
In our technology vision to the 2030 horizon, all vehicles will have some form of electrification. That applies to diesel engines as well.
What role will rotary engines have in the future?
We have continued working on the development of the rotary engine even after we discontinued the RX-8. Its first application will be as a range extender for EVs. Inside Mazda, we all have the dream of seeing one day a vehicle powered by a rotary engine. But given the number of things we have to do, we had to put this on the back burner, and we have no time frame.
What share of Mazda sales do crossovers represent?
Our global crossover mix is currently about 60 percent, and if [the market] wants more, we are ready to produce them. More specifically, we should have the production flexibility to cope with various demand mixes.
With our new-generation products [the Mazda3 and CX-30], we made sure that all of our plants are able to produce both traditional cars and crossovers/SUVs, and that they can handle fluctuations in demand mix between cars and SUVs of plus or minus 40 percent from plan.
Will Mazda continue producing the Mazda6 despite the shrinking large-sedan segment?
That segment is shrinking in Europe, but we don't make cars only for Europe. There is still a certain level of demand for that kind of car both in China and in the U.S.
Mazda has one of the most geographically balanced sales bases among carmakers. Does the company fear the effect of the current trade tensions?
Tariffs are, of course, an important factor for our business, so I hope the trade war between China and the U.S. will be solved as soon as possible.
What is your forecast for 2019 for China?
I think 2019 sales will be lower than 2018. However, although demand has slowed since 2018, we are not changing our strategy. We are actually one of the brands that spends less on incentives in China. We will stick to this policy and will try to minimize dealer inventory.
One of Mazda's challenges in Europe is to meet tougher CO2 emissions targets. JATO Dynamics estimates Mazda's 2018 CO2 level at 135.2 grams per kilometer, and the fleet total needs to be 95g/km by 2021. Why is Mazda so far from the target?
There are two reasons why our emissions are above 130g/km. First, our best-selling model is the CX-5 midsize SUV. Second, the diesel mix of our smaller models, the Mazda2 and Mazda3, has been diminishing.
Will Mazda hit the target in 2020 and 2021? If so, how?
First, the Skyactiv-X engine we are launching emits less than 100g/km of CO2. Second, the first Mazda battery-electric vehicle will hit the market next year. Finally, we will introduce plug-in hybrid models from 2021 or 2022. So we will eventually achieve the target, although we will have some difficulties in 2020. m
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