As part of its Skyactiv program, Mazda dropped 575 pounds off its CX-5 crossover from its similar-sized predecessor, the CX-7. Now the goal is shed at least 220 pounds every time it redesigns one of its models. That's a tough thing to do, but Mazda still has a lot of room, said Dave Coleman, vehicle development engineer for Mazda's North American operations at the Center for Automotive Research's Management Briefing Seminars in Traverse City, MI.
The automaker last year said it was looking to boost fleetwide fuel economy by about 30 percent over the next three years largely through its Skyactiv program, which uses better engine, transmission, aerodynamics and lightweight technology to cut fuel use in its internal combustion engines. Mazda has set a goal to sell as many as 160,000 Skyactiv vehicles a year.
To lighten a car, engineers face the battle of overcoming tough obstacles. For example, making sure safety and emissions regulations are met, and that consumer demand for comfort and convenience features are delivered, all of which add to the vehicle's weight. Mazda has adopted a few alternatives to do so, such as using less steel, installing bolts in the CX-5 that are 8 grams lighter. Mazda will continue looking for more advanced materials in future generations of SkyActiv models.
Eventually, the costs will come down as they become more widely used in the industry, Coleman says. Electrification of new models with advanced battery systems is costing automakers and consumers big bucks to adopt, and Mazda plans to add those technologies further down the line. For now, it's confident that SkyActiv and lightweighting are the ways to go.