2009 Mazda MX-5 Miata – Click above for high-res image gallery
When the original fuel crisis hit the States in the 1970s, automakers scrambled to make smaller, more efficient transportation. The result was a lot of ill-packaged front-wheel drive suck better left in the deepest recesses of our collective consciousness. Since the mid '80s though, vehicles (and people) began growing at a steady rate to the point that the typical C-segment sedan is bigger and heavier than the run of the mill '90s midsize sedan.
Mazda is no different than the competition when it comes to added tonnage, as product development chief Robert Davis tells Autoweek/Automotive News that each product cycle results in weight gain of about 80 pounds. That stops beginning in 2011, though, as the Japanese automaker begins dropping the weight of a typical Mazda by 220 pounds or more. Davis says the automaker will attack the problem from several angles, including using more aluminum and high strength steel, cutting the overall length of vehicles by three inches or more and utilizing smaller and more efficient powertrains. Mazda engineers are also being charged with finding innovative solutions to solve problems like how best to bond aluminum to steel. The automotive Weight Watchers plan will result in fuel economy gains of three to five percent without sacrificing safety.
The weight loss isn't likely to happen throughout Mazda's entire lineup all at once, though, instead opting to drop pounds as vehicles come up for redesign. Mazda will also work to lose the weight without sacrificing the brand's Zoom Zoom roots. One of the first Mazda models expected to benefit from the companies weight loss goals is the MX-5 Miata. Rumors have been flying for months that the next Miata will be lighter than the already feathery roadster we have today. We'd say lighter is almost always better as long as the weight subtraction doesn't come at the expense of structural rigidity.
We're all for Mazda cutting weight from all of its models, and we're hoping that other automakers follow suit. We're pretty sure we've had enough of 5,000 pounds SUVs and two-ton sedans, and we're guessing you have, too.