Among the general public, Mazda is probably best known for the Miata and the whole "zoom-zoom" tagline. Speaking just before the unveiling of the new CX-5 crossover at the LA Auto Show's Motor Press Guild keynote speech this morning, Takashi Yamanouchi, president and CEO of Mazda Motor Company, said "zoom-zoom" is much more than a slogan, calling it the company's defining principle that informs how vehicles are designed, built and marketed. "This is what Mazda is all about," he said. But wait, there's more.

Yamanouchi said he believes the theme of this year's LA show is that "fuel efficiency comes standard." By improving "regular" technologies that boost overall fuel economy, more customers can enjoy the gas-saving benefits. In Japan, for example, the new Demio (Mazda2) with the Skyactiv-g 1.3-liter engine matches the fuel economy of some hybrids at a much lower cost.

As Yamanouchi continued his speech, it became clear that what Mazda is really about is Skyactiv. He noted that everyone in the auto industry is committed to reducing carbon emissions and so the choices for customers are growing. Still, internal combustion engine vehicles are expected to continue to make up the vast majority of vehicles sold for a very long time, so Mazda has decided to go big on its Skyactiv technology. Between 2001 and 2008, Mazda improved the corporate average fuel economy of its vehicles by around 30 percent. Between 2008 and 2015, with the help of Skyactiv to further improve ICEs, build better transmissions and reduce weight (full details here), the target is to improve the global economy by another 30 percent. In other words, Skyactiv is Mazda's new defining mantra: "sustainable zoom zoom."

Skyactiv does plan for electric vehicles in the long term, but Mazda isn't too keen on them right now. "Pure electric vehicles will lead the way to zero emissions," Yamanouchi said, adding that, "for some customers, they are a very attractive option." But he said that high cost and other limitations means they will remain just a small part of the industry, which Yamanouchi predicted would be not more than five percent of the market in the near term. Next year, Mazda will begin tests of an all-electric Demio with lease customers in Japan. Of course, more ICE Skyactiv models are coming, including U.S. launches of a Skyactiv diesel and vehicles with regenerative braking technology. Yamanouchi said his company will have more to say about this later in the year.

And then there was one other little detail: "I am very attached to the rotary engine, so as long as I'm president of Mazda, our R&D in this area will continue," Yamanouchi said. Good to know.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 27 Comments
      paulwesterberg
      • 3 Years Ago
      Without the quotes: Mazda CEO: Skyactiv is marketing jibber jabber for a time when I am using company profits to buy myself a yacht instead of investing in future product development.
        Greg
        • 3 Years Ago
        @paulwesterberg
        Improving their fleet mpg ratings by 30% is not "investing in future product development"? (FYI, that's what SkyActiv will do for them over the next few years.) Also, if you look up the salaries of the Japanese car company presidents, you will find that they don't get paid anywhere near as much as American car company executives--it's a very different culture.
      Sukairain
      • 3 Years Ago
      And then there was one other little detail: "I am very attached to the rotary engine, so as long as I'm president of Mazda, our R&D in this area will continue," Yamanouchi said. Good to know. So..... how much longer is Yamanouchi going to be president? If only Mazda invested the money they wasted into the rotary into alternative fuel or hybrid technology......
      Spec
      • 3 Years Ago
      The Chrysler of Japan.
        2 Wheeled Menace
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Spec
        Actually i think that Mitsubishi deserves that title. Look at the curb weights of their models, their early 2000's engine tech across the entire lineup, and unappealing models.. At least Mazda has a few good cars.
          Spec
          • 3 Years Ago
          @2 Wheeled Menace
          At least Mitsubishi sells cheapest EV on the market. They need to upscale it a little bit though . . . 62 miles of range is not enough.
      Peter
      • 3 Years Ago
      "I am very attached to the rotary engine, so as long as I'm president of Mazda, our R&D in this area will continue" seems somehow incompatible with reduced fuel consumption, unless perhaps if you are minimizing weight for a range extender?
        bhtooefr
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Peter
        Or doing hydrogen - IIRC, wankels do especially well for cheaply combusting hydrogen instead of shelling out for a fuel cell. And, IIRC, Mazda did a hydrogen wankel Mazda5 in Japan.
        Greg
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Peter
        That's why it's called "research." Their latest version of the rotary dramatically improved emission performance. It didn't solve all its problems, but it got better. They are trying to find a way to make a rotary more efficient so that it is not incompatible with modern requirements--sort of like how they found a way to make a diesel that doesn't have the polution problems that require urea injection.
      Noz
      • 3 Years Ago
      What a retarded industry the car industry is...particularly in the form it is in right now....to base one's major economy on finite resources that are not only that...finite....but one that's poisoning us to death too.... What was that again? The human species smart???? LOL...uhhh...not.
        Spec
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Noz
        It has worked for them for 100 years now . . . you can't change on a dime. They are slowly changing but it is the consumers that need to force them to change by buying the hyrbids & EVs.
          Dan Frederiksen
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Spec
          so we should just suffer their overpricing and poor products eternally in the hope that they will make them better?
          EZEE
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Spec
          I think Spec says it right when he says, "it is the consumers..." In the USA, the small, fuel efficient cars normally have to be sold so cheaply that they make little to no profit. One can only build for so long at a loss. If the car companies made a pile of money off of small, fuel efficient cars, they would assuredly build more of them. As far as over priced - I am not sure now, since the debt burden has been largely lifted (Hey PR - you have any numbers on this?), but prior to the bankruptcy, GM lost roughly $3000 per each Cobalt they sold. Not especially small, lightweight, nor aerodynamic. Ford Motor (Garbage!) is coming out with a host of small cars and hybrids, but time will tell how they sell. If, however, people continue to buy Expeditions, and Fiesta's sit on the lot unsold...well...guess what....?
      paulwesterberg
      • 3 Years Ago
      Hint: Sustainable products will not continue to rely solely on petroleum. In order to ensure long term success vehicle manufacturers need to research and develop drive-trains powered by alternative energy sources. Incrementally improving ancient internal combustion engine technology has served well as a business model in the past, but further efficiency improvements will require an electrified system. The era of analog television is over, the era of analog telephony is over, the end of the era of the combustion engine is approaching. If the price of oil spikes to $150 per barrel again then his house of cars will crumble.
        Greg
        • 3 Years Ago
        @paulwesterberg
        You haven't read much on their strategy have you? Mazda recognizes that regardless of happens with oil production, economy, etc., the ICE will be the dominant form of powering cars for the next couple decades. If you bother to do the math, you will see you can actually get more benefit (and use less gas) if you make incramental improvements to 95% of your product instead of making revolutionary improvements to 5%. And these "incremental" improvements are planned to increase their fleet efficiency numbers by 30%. Also, when they do move into hybrids, the improvements they've made in their engines will carry over and make the hybrid more efficient. Mazda does plan to move into increasing electrification of their cars, eventually reaching a full electric vehicle. In fact, if you've seen their Takeri concept, you'd know they've already started on regenerative braking.
      erikv
      • 3 Years Ago
      I don't own a rotary powered car for fuel efficiency, I own it for performance.
      2 Wheeled Menace
      • 3 Years Ago
      p.s. where's our 1.3l skyactiv? The Mazda2 is a good car. But it's spoiled by a very mediocre engine. Regen braking should be cool..
        EZEE
        • 3 Years Ago
        @2 Wheeled Menace
        Hey PR! (I ask PR cause he has the best numbers) Any idea how much regen braking costs on a car?
      Marco Polo
      • 3 Years Ago
      The only real question for the President of Mazda is, does Mazda make a profit? Obviously, after many years of losses and partial foreign ownership, Mazda is finally secure and profitable. Mr Yamanouchi and Mazda are under no 'moral' obligation to manufacture EV's! Mazda believes, quite rightly, that it's meagre capital is better deployed catering to it's existing profitable market segment. These are the logical actions of an astute President of Mazda. Sometimes the readership of ABG, forgets that the EV market is relatively tiny, a sector where only the best funded Auto-manufacturers can afford to fund development. Mazda is content to invest it capital in products that generate profitable revenue. Why on earth should underfunded Mazda invest in an area which will be a decade before any profitable return, just to satisfy the ideological demands of a handful of EV enthusiasts who will whinge about the price? No, Mazda will prudently await the development of the EV market to the point it's profitable, then enter the EV market with a vehicle that can generate a profit!
        EZEE
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Marco Polo
        Holy smokes the first sentence.... :D I usually try to sugar coat it with explanations, seeing as the replies can be a bit...descriptive in things I should do to myself that are physically impossible.... But, +1 from me....
      Ford Future
      • 3 Years Ago
      The Electric Motor is the BEST Rotary Ever Invented.
      2 Wheeled Menace
      • 3 Years Ago
      Rotary engine is, and always will be a joke in terms of fuel economy. I do not understand the obsession! Mazda's been pushing for the rotary engine since the 1960's, and the engine has not been popular other than a small following of the rx-7 and rx-8 where the poor fuel economy and emissions can be overlooked as it's a novelty.. "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results."
      Smith Jim
      • 3 Years Ago
      How about an Atkinson cycle rotary engine? http://white-smoke.wetpaint.com/page/Rotary+Engine
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