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LA show: Why Mazda is ‘purifying’ design

Style council: Mazda’s design language will evolve to be simpler and cleaner, with the Kai concept the latest example of this shift.

Cleaner ‘Hiroshima-influenced’ forms are influencing the next cycle of Mazda cars

Mazda logo7 Dec 2017

By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS in Los Angeles

MAZDA has confirmed that it is moving away from the busy designs of some current and past products, as it strives to push its products into a more premium space than they have occupied in the past.

With the 2019 Mazda3-heralding Kai Concept from October’s Tokyo motor show currently the closest-to-production example of Mazda’s evolution of its long-standing Kodo design themes, the next batch of models promise to feature more mature, elegant, sophisticated and cleaner forms inside and out.

According to Mazda North American Operations director of design Julien Montousse, ‘grounded purity’ is the catch-cry for future models that will set Mazda apart from Japanese premium brands such as Lexus and Acura, let alone European, Korean and American manufacturers’ efforts.

“One of the rules in the evolution of Kodo design is to make sure we showcase ‘purity by prioritisation’,” he revealed to GoAuto at the global premiere of the facelifted Mazda6 in Los Angeles last week.

“And what we mean by that is that we don’t want to add a lot of features to the car design. We want it to be very pure but still want it to feel very rich. You read richness in different layers. It is minimalism – it’s taking things out.

“That’s what we’re trying to do – and it’s really so much more difficult to do versus adding to make a car look good quickly. Especially when you have an SUV like the CX-5… it’s a package that has to be practical but still have to make it seductive so you cannot just add all those features to make the car stand out.

“We see that on some competitors that just keep adding on, it’s just like this anger… you need beauty. It’s very important.

“We are realising right now that (adding too much) doesn’t age well… if you want to stay in the mainstream space I think that’s OK, but as soon as you want to go to premium there’s no way on earth you can add it on. And to be honest, even some of the cars that Audi came up with have this very animalistic form that is taking value away from the brand.

“It’s not for me to say because everybody has their own trajectory, but Mazda will keep purifying the car to such an extent that you only see one beautiful volume. So, it’s a sculpture.”

Mr Montousse said he believed the new Kodo Design evolution was just another facet of Japanese design, since it moves away from more common automotive styling themes that in the past have championed intricate detailing.

“There is Japan philosophy and there is Hiroshima philosophy. And if you go to Hiroshima it is very different than going to Tokyo or Osaka, which are much trendier. I think a lot of auto manufacturers are responding to that trendiness, but if you go to Hiroshima it is a lot more grounded, and the foundation much more cultural. And if you dig into Japanese cultural architecture and beauty, it is very disciplined, extremely disciplined, and that’s basically what we’re doing with Mazda.

“You can maybe make a connection to some of the (traditional Japanese) writing, some of the ‘Kanji’, has a lot of emotional aspect to it – sometimes they hide, sometimes they open up – and there’s a lot of rhythm there.”

While Mr Montousse said while other brands are also inspired by similar Japanese cultural themes, the difference is that Mazda’s designers harness them into more aesthetically pleasing forms.

“Personally, I see this transitioning of very wild and uncontrolled expression into Japanese design on (models from) companies like Mitsubishi, Toyota and others,” he said, “(and theirs) is very direct but not controlled and undisciplined. We are going completely the other way.

“It is like a Japanese garden as an example. It is extremely complex, it takes many, many months for the architects to put that garden together. It is very beautiful and also very pure. And when you start to understand how you put the smaller rocks further away to accentuate the acceleration and perspective, it is very complex. And that is very Japanese.”

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