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.