Mazda will soon sport a new look. The Hiroshima-based company has unveiled a vehicle-design language called "Kodo -- Soul of Motion" that reflects an evolution of the fluid, avian motif favored by former design chief Laurens van den Acker, who left last year to lead Renault's design division.
Van den Acker's ideas have influenced the look of Mazda cars since 2006, and are embodied in the 2006 "Nagare" concept vehicle, and more prosaically by production vehicles like Mazda 6, 5, 2, and most strongly by the forthcoming Mazda5, which will be unveiled at the LA Auto Show in November.
The new look -- a more mammalian, "about to pounce" sensibility -- reflects the aesthetics of new design chief Ikuo Maeda, who joined last April. Maeda has introduced his own concept to evince the "Kodo" look: the sleek Shinari four-door, four-seat sports coupe. The company says shinari means "powerful yet supple appearance of great resilient force when objects of high tensile strength, such as steel or bamboo, are twisted or bent" or "the appearance of a person or animal as it flexes its body in preparation for a fast movement."
Maeda, who leads Mazda's Design Division, said the new look continues the nature-themed inspiration introduced by Nagare but gives it more muscle. "In our work to further evolve the expression of motion, Mazda Design has focused on the strength, beauty and tension found in the instantaneous movement seen in animals," he said in a corporate release on Friday.
He said the company's four design studios located in Japan (Hiroshima and Yokohama), Europe (Frankfurt), and North America (Irvine, Calif.) will collaborate to incorporate the new language in future products.
Jeremy Barnes, Mazda's director of national events and communications, explains that with few exceptions, Mazda vehicles are global designs reflecting competition among the brand's studios in Europe, Asia and North America.
"They compete against each other in initial design direction: California might put up a proposal for a vehicle, and Hiroshima and Germany would do the same," he tells Marketing Daily. "The best one gets chosen and all three studios then end up working on the final direction." He says that creative process will continue. "It's good for the studios to compete and gives vehicles a global look and feel."
The exception in the past has been the U.S.-market Mazda6, too large a sedan for the rest of the world. And the Mazda5 was initially designed and developed for Japan and Europe, but the company realized it could succeed in the U.S. as an ersatz minivan with little modification, per Barnes. "While, conversely, the CX7 and CX9 [crossovers] were originally intended for the North American market until the company determined they had a potential in other markets around the world."
Barnes says vehicles reflecting the new Kodo look are "a ways off from seeing production vehicles that are influenced by it."