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Aussie case for Mazda MX-30 EV firms

Diesel precedent: Mazda Australia draws parallels between its early foray and success with diesel engines with potential introduction of the MX-30 electric small SUV.

Mazda Australia views MX-30 as way of joining the ‘electrification conversation’

11 Feb 2020

MAZDA Australia appears to be leaning toward importing the all-electric MX-30 small SUV, promising a decision by mid-year following extended deliberations over the matter.


Compared with Mazda Australia managing director Vinesh Bhindi’s non-committal position on the MX-30 last November, GoAuto observed a more enthusiastic tone toward the EV during this week’s launch of the similar-sized but petrol-powered CX-30 in Victoria.


This apparent sentiment shift coincides with a report from Australia’s Electric Vehicle Council that sales of EVs jumped 203 per cent in 2019 while sales of combustion engine vehicles slumped 7.8 per cent and the announcement by British prime minister Boris Johnson that the sale of combustion engine vehicles – including hybrids – would be banned in the UK by 2035.


Mazda Australia marketing director Alastair Doak told GoAuto he saw the MX-30 as providing an opportunity “to be part of the electrification conversation”, drawing parallels with the brand’s early adoption of diesel engines in passenger cars during the mid-late 2000s.


“We’re looking at MX-30 not for a volume opportunity but to be part of the electrification conversation and also it would give us the opportunity to train some of our dealers, do all the infrastructure and that kind of stuff,” he said.


“If you remember way back, we went into diesels very early when you could only have a manual diesel and we had all these questions about why we were doing diesels.”


The first oil-burning Mazda6 mid-sizer debuted in 2006 and was joined the following year by a diesel-powered Mazda3 small car.


“Again, it was all preparation and getting used to it, training within the dealer network and getting comfortable with it, said Mr Doak. “Ultimately we sold a lot of diesels with everything we did in the following generation.”


Mazda has drawn criticism for not being serious about electric vehicles, given the MX-30’s relatively small 35.5kWh battery pack and resultant 200km range – less than half that of the similar-sized Hyundai Kona Electric – along with its polarising rear-hinged ‘suicide’ door design that echoes the RX-8 coupe that sold between 2003 and 2012.


However, Mr Doak strongly refuted these criticisms, saying Mazda Australia “absolutely believes in electric, hybrid and all those things”. He also defended the MX-30’s door design as increasing rather than decreasing its appeal.


“For us it absolutely increases its desirability more than anything else,” he said.


“We (Mr Bhindi and Mr Doak) both had RX-8s as drive cars for years and they were incredibly handy things; I had two kids in the back of an RX-8 so from that point of view it’s nothing but a positive that the car has those freestyle doors.”


Mazda has also claimed that EVs, even with small lightweight batteries such as that of the MX-30, have similar lifecycle CO2 emissions to a diesel hatchback, a sentiment echoed by Mr Bhindi last November.


“There are always some customers who are interested, but in our case, when we talk to them about the well-to-wheel position that we have, an EV is not (the complete answer) in its current entire stage – from where energy is generated, how it’s generated, right to the end – it doesn’t make sense if that’s their interest to reduce emissions, for example, or be environmentally friendly,” he said at the time.


Mr Doak reiterated Mazda’s “building block” drivetrain strategy of improving the efficiency of internal combustion engines and adding increasing levels of hybridisation before making the switch to electric-only propulsion.


He added that the joint venture established in 2017 to develop electric vehicles with Toyota and component supplier Denso was “bubbling in the background as well”.


“We have full plans to be there,” he said. “As we sit here today the market for electric vehicles in Australia is still incredibly small, particularly at a price-point below $60,000.”


Addressing journalists in a Q&A session at this week’s CX-30 launch, Mr Doak joked that even if the business case for the MX-30 failed to stack up that Mazda Australia would “sneak one in just to have a play”.


“We’re talking with our colleagues at Mazda Corporation to see what we can do,” he said.


“We would like to have it but are not going to be silly; it has to make sense.”

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