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Mazda CX-30 designer inspired by Oz visit

You beaut: Chief Mazda CX-30 designer Ryo Yanagisawa (right) spent two years in Australia working on the BT-50 project with Ford and fondly remembers unique home-grown vehicles such as the Falcon Ute.

Experience gained working Down Under ‘valuable asset’ to chief Mazda CX-30 designer

14 Feb 2020

THE chief designer of Mazda’s new CX-30 small SUV fondly regards the two years he spent working in Australia as a source of inspiration that continues to influence his work a decade on.


Ryo Yanagisawa lived in Melbourne between late 2007 and early 2010, when he was chief designer of the current-generation BT-50 and embedded among 90 other Mazda designers and engineers who were co-developing the one-tonne ute with Ford.


“Nothing is wasted from the experience I gained in Australia in terms of influence on my work; the experiences in life help designers create things,” he told GoAuto at the Australian CX-30 launch in Victoria last week.


“Australia is a vast country and people are living here from different cultures and backgrounds, so I think the experiences I gained here are a really valuable asset for me.”


A 29-year veteran of Mazda Motor Corporation, Yanagisawa-san also spent most of 2001 working at what was then known as Mazda North American Operations in Detroit. Apart from that and his two years in Australia, his whole career has been spent in Japan.


“Japan is a small island country, so by looking at how people live overseas and how they use vehicles in those foreign countries really taught me a lot of things,” he said.


“To see how people use cars and even how they look when they are driving them is totally different in Australia.”


Having worked on commercial vehicle projects in both Detroit and Melbourne, Yanagisawa-san singled out the Falcon Ute as a model that had left a lasting impression.


“I don’t see that kind of vehicle in any other countries,” he said.


Asked about the challenges of bringing a car with complex surfaces such as those of the CX-30 to market, Yanagisawa-san credited the relationship between Mazda’s designers and engineers, which he had seen evolve from adversarial to collaborative during his almost three decades with the company.


“In the old times the engineers and designers were not on as good terms, but I think the culture in the company has changed a lot. I think we have this cooperative relationship now which is a good thing,” he said.


“These days we don’t really fight between designers and engineers much, because Mazda believes that design is part of our uniqueness and wants to focus on that.


“Engineers fully understand that point, so improving the design of vehicles is something engineers think about.”


Clearly reliving the relief and exhilaration he had felt after he had presented the finished clay model of the CX-30 to Mazda executives, Yanagisawa-san recounted how it had been possible to successfully mass-produce some of the model’s trickier design features.


One particular priority was his favourite style feature, the dynamic S-shaped ‘Utsuroi’ reflection and shadow cast by clever surfacing along the vehicle’s flanks.


“The executive in charge of engineers came to me and asked me to tell him which would be the most important challenges of incorporating this design into the manufacturing process and the other struggles he would have to face with,” said Yanagisawa-san.


“This officer in charge of engineering really asked me all those things and I told him that the (Utsuroi) reflection of the door surface would be difficult to put into the manufacturing process and I asked him for support.


“The next day after that, the engineers came to me, I showed the clay model to them and we decided to work together.”


Yanagisawa-san said Mazda was achieving a premium look for its models by focusing on vehicle proportions that were traditionally viewed as beautiful – citing brands such as Aston Martin and Jaguar as examples – and applying Japanese aesthetics.


“Those things are making people think Mazda design feels premium,” he said.

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