Mazda Plans To 'Zoom-Zoom' Past Electrics


Mazda will unveil its Mazda2 compact car at the Los Angeles Auto Show next month. Last week, the company's product director in the U.S. also revealed the company's answer to achieving higher mileage and cleaner engines. But the Hiroshima, Japan-based automaker -- whose U.S. office is in Irvine, Calif. -- will not be plugging into electric cars, or even hybrids any time soon.

Robert Davis, Mazda's SVP of product development and quality, said the company will stick with traditional internal combustion engines, albeit spiffed up and tweaked for power and efficiency.

Davis says the company's engines must remain true to the "Zoom-Zoom" mantra that supported the launch of the Mazda6 and Mazda3 after that, starting in 2002. "We use the analogy of a tree," he says, "where 'Zoom-Zoom' is our core, defined by 'Stylish, Spirited and Insightful.'" He said the term had once actually been "Stylish, Spirited and Savvy," but that Japanese executives "were always asking where the ointment was."



He said that all product endeavors, including environmental efforts and safety, have to spring from that. "In 2007 we established a 'sustainable Zoom-Zoom' strategy," he said. "It's actually a brand environmental strategy, not solely product-focused. Our vision is to grow this strategy out to 2015 and beyond."

He said Mazda's decision to focus on achieving those goals with internal combustion is a reflection of the market. "In 2009, 100% of the industry was internal combustion engines, including hybrids. Only 10% used electric devices, such as mild hybrids."

He said that, forecasting out, Mazda sees the market will remain predominantly internal combustion. "There are lots of grand plans about electrics, but we see only 10% of the market being electrics at most. And, more conservatively, just 5%. "So we are applying all our resources to achieve a 30% improvement on fuel economy with internal combustion engines," he said. Broadly speaking, he said, Mazda plans to make gasoline engines as efficient as diesels and diesels as efficient as hybrids.

One method, per Davis, will involve focusing on solving gasoline-engines' weak points, such as low-RPM driving, where a car starts at zero to develop initial momentum. That is where hybrid vehicles save gas, since they power a vehicle entirely on electricity to get going.

Davis also hinted at the possibility that the company famous for the rotary engine may see diesel in the future of its U.S. operations. "We are very interested in exploring bringing diesel engines to the U.S., Canada and Mexico," he said. "It makes sense: the performance is good, and Mazda consumers don't remember the old GM diesel car belching black smoke, or the 45 horsepower [Volkswagen] Rabbits. They view them as clean and lean and smooth."

The company posted sales of 15,068 vehicles last month, an 8.4% decrease versus the month last year, with total yearly sales at 175,257 -- down 24.4% compared to 2008.

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