Mazda hints at electric MX-5 in revised EV strategy

Mazda vision study model side

The Mazda Vision Study was shown interspersed with clips of previous-generation MX-5s

Japanese maker announces £9bn investment in future electric cars and shows new sports-oriented concept

Mazda has previewed a sleek two-seat coupé – which could hint at the next-generation MX-5 – alongside the announcement of an £8.9 billion investment into future electric vehicles.

Although the firm did not detail the model, instead relegating it to a five-minute promotional video at the end of a financial presentation, it was shown alongside a series of Mazda MX-5 convertibles. This suggests it could be an early look at the next-generation sports car, despite being a hard-top coupé with Lamborghini-style scissor doors. 

Also shown was an early look at the model’s chassis, with a large space for a longitudinally mounted engine and a structure – likely a fuel cell or battery enclosure – behind the driver. However, the concept’s lack of exhausts – coupled with Mazda’s major investment in future EVs – seems to confirm it is an electric vehicle, in its current form.

Mazda’s Europe head of product development and engineering, Joachim Kunz, hinted in April that the MX-5 will be considered completely separate to the brand’s mainstream models.

“It’s our brand icon and it is always treated very specially,” Kunz told Autocar. “At the moment, it looks like we will have this car forever, with this size and concept and combustion engine. Of course, some day, we will have to electrify it, but we want to keep this pure concept.”

Kunz added that the MX-5 has a longer lifespan than other Mazda models – “having one generation for 10 years is not a problem for us” – so the replacement for the current ND-generation car may not break cover until 2024.

A company spokesperson told Autocar that the coupé shown was a ‘vision study’ model – similar to the RX Vision concept shown in 2015 – and that it is intended to demonstrate the brand’s commitment to enjoyable cars. 

The news came as Mazda announced a $10.6bn (£8.9bn) spending plan aimed at accelerating its electrification efforts.

The revised strategy, divided into three phases, comes in response to the “dramatically” changing environment for the automotive industry, with emphasis on Europe.

The first phase will see Mazda consolidate its production capacity – focused on “achieving more resilience towards changes in the environment” – by strengthening its supply chains and cutting costs.

During this period, the company will launch new models under its ‘multi-solution approach’ philosophy – a pragmatic approach to electrification based on customer demand and regional infrastructure. 

Christian Schultze, director of research and operations for Mazda Motor Europe, explained in a video published last year: “Based on the different customer needs for individual mobility, the local driving conditions, and the carbon footprint of available fuels and electricity, we aim to offer the best suitable powertrain. 

“Accordingly, there is no ‘most sustainable’ solution for the powertrain choice that suits all customers in all locations across the globe.”

This strategy began with the MX-30, the company’s first battery-electric car, launched in early 2021. The flagship CX-60 SUV followed this year with a petrol plug-in hybrid powertrain, and mild-hybrid diesel versions are set to arrive in early 2023.

The plan will continue with a petrol range-extender version of the MX-30, resolving the limited 124-mile range for which the pure-electric version is often criticised. Afterwards, a new model called CX-80 – an extended variant of the CX-60 with three rows of seats – will arrive as the brand’s new flagship.

“We believe that a multi-solution approach will be effective,” Mazda CEO Akira Marumoto told reporters today.

In the second phase of the strategy, between 2025 and 2027, Mazda will introduce a new hybrid system and additional battery-electric models “as regulations become more stringent, especially in Europe”. 

This is in reference to the Euro 7 emissions proposals made on 10 November, which will lower NOx emissions by 35% compared with Euro 6 and cut tailpipe particulates by 13%. 

The rules have drawn fire across the industry. Oliver Zipse, head of lobby group the ACEA and CEO of BMW, said: “Unfortunately, the environmental benefit of the [European] Commission’s proposal is very limited, whereas it heavily increases the cost of vehicles.” Meanwhile, Ford’s Europe head of its Model E electric division, Martin Sander, said it would undermine the shift to electric models.

In the final phase of Mazda’s revised strategy, starting in 2028, the company will launch an assault to electrify all of its cars.

It has signed no fewer than three agreements for the development and production of electric drive units, inverters and advanced technologies for motors and it has established two joint ventures to further develop a production framework and motor technology.

In addition to existing agreements to secure its battery supply – including a recent deal with Envision AESC, supplier to BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Nissan – Mazda is considering further investment in cell production.

The company now aims for 25-40% of its global sales to comprise electric vehicles by 2030, having previously targeted 25%.

The announcement comes as Mazda renews its commitment to becoming a carbon-neutral company by 2050. The firm has, however, added two new medium-term goals: the first for its factories to be carbon neutral by 2035, and the second for zero fatal accidents to be caused by any new Mazda by 2040.

Source: Autocar

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