The companies say they "will further explore the possibilities of other complementary products on a global level." These are in addition to Mazda providing the Mazda2 to Toyota as the Yaris iA, and Toyota providing Mazda a commercial van to sell in Japan. So what could these future complementary products be? We have a couple of ideas, one that's ludicrous but awesome (and, sadly, probably won't ever happen), and the other grounded in reality.
Let's start with the fun one. What's the one thing Mazda fan has been wanting for years? A rotary sports car, of course! And while Mazda has repeatedly said that it has a small band of engineers plugging away at the spinning triangle problem, the odds of Mazda putting it into production have been slim. The inherent thirst of the rotary would make it tough to introduce when fuel economy regulations have been tightening. Plus, Mazda is a small company that needs to stretch every dollar, and having a one-off engine not based on anything else would be expensive. How could Mazda get around these obstacles?
This is where the partnership with Toyota comes in, in our long-shot fantasy. Aside from having deep pockets, Toyota has a wealth of knowledge in the realm of hybrids. Thus, why not a rotary hybrid?
Electrifying their oddball motor would fix two issues. One is obviously the fuel economy, since the gas engine wouldn't have to run all the time. The other is in providing torque. Rotaries infamously have little torque, especially down low, so adding an electric motor would allow this hypothetical rotary sports car to have a grunty low end, while still providing the Everest-high redline rotary fans like. The idea would be sweetened with the solid-state batteries that Toyota is developing, which could provide lots of electricity without weighing a ton.
The rotary-electric mashup notion isn't totally alien to Mazda, either, since the company created an electric Mazda2 with a rotary engine for a range extender — albeit for different reasons. The company even filed a patent for the rotary range extender recently. The range extender idea plays to another rotary advantage: light weight, something equally valuable in a sports car platform.
Mazda could then package this powertrain in a stretched Miata platform, to save money and use a good base, and sell it as a high-end GT car with the styling of the gorgeous RX-Vision concept. While it would be cool to see it in a raw sports car, a more luxurious GT car is in line with Mazda's move upmarket, and it would justify a higher price tag, and hopefully more profit. As a side effect, it could be an excellent halo for future hypothetical hybrid Mazdas and both companies' technologies.
OK, now that we've indulged ourselves in this little fantasy, we should probably be honest with ourselves. This hybrid rotary machine probably won't happen. Really, the results of the Mazda and Toyota partnership will be more low-key and conventional. We'll likely see the companies sharing technology with each other, especially with powertrains, and possibly introducing more rebadging efforts like the Mazda2/Yaris iA.
Toyota's hybrid technology would clearly be an asset for Mazda, which currently does not sell a hybrid. It would likely take the already impressive efficiency of Mazda's SkyActiv engines to new heights. And Mazda could have consumer catnip on its hands if it fitted the hypothetical SkyActiv hybrid to its crossover line, giving them a tough-to-beat combo of good driving dynamics, crossover looks and utility, and efficiency. On the other side of the coin, we also could see Mazda lending some of its conventional internal combustion expertise to Toyota to boost efficiency. Mazda may also lend some advice on handling to Toyota, which we wouldn't object to (although judging by the 2018 Camry, its engineers seem to be plenty capable when given the opportunity).
As for those rebadging efforts, having looked at the sales numbers for July, Toyota actually might be better off ditching its own Yaris hatch altogether in favor of a rebadged Mazda2 hatchback. Mazda already builds that, but the company decided against bringing it to the United States for a variety of factors. The Yaris iA outsold the regular Yaris by a factor of 10 for July. Offering a rebadged Mazda2 hatch would save Toyota money on a new Yaris for the United States, at least in the short term, and it would give Mazda a little more production volume.
That might be the extent of the model sharing, although the partnership is almost certain to involve a host of impossible-to-see mechanical parts, and perhaps some chassis tuning by one or the other.
So that's what we'd love to see, as well as what we'll probably see from the new Mazda and Toyota partnership. Either way, we think both companies have the chance to benefit from teaming up. And perhaps we as consumers will benefit, too. Feel free to share your thoughts on the partnership and what you think we might see in the comments below.