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LA show: Why Toyota needs Mazda

Big deal: The development of its SkyActiv architecture and family of powertrains has impressed Toyota.

Mazda possesses engineering smarts and agility that Toyota cannot match

Mazda logo5 Dec 2017

By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS in LOS ANGELES

MAZDA has revealed that its successful go-it-alone turnaround over the last five years, led by the successful introduction of the SkyActiv modular architecture and powertrain family, convinced Toyota to partner up in key future developments.

The Japanese car-maker has grown on its own steam in the past few years, after Ford Motor Company, which had at one point owned a 33.4 per cent controlling interest in Mazda, slowly divested its shares from 2008 to 2015, when the company was losing more than a billion dollars annually.

Speaking to Australian journalists at the launch of the facelifted Mazda6 at the Los Angeles motor show last week, Mazda North American Operations president and CEO Masahiro Moro said he believed that it was Mazda’s philosophy of deploying its limited resources wisely, with positive results, that will help both companies adapt to fresh environmental, connectivity and technological challenges.

“I think Toyota needs Mazda and Mazda needs Toyota it’s kind of a mutual interest,” he said.

“In the last 10 years, we have made a battle against CO2 reduction in Europe, Japan and USA, and in the next five-to-10 years it will be far bigger in terms of the technology evolution in many areas.

“So, our challenge is not just building a car we have to incorporate those new technologies happening in our society to keep the car alive. Electrification is one, autonomous driving is another advances in safety, technological systems and connectivity – those do not just have to be developed but also incorporated in social as well as regulatory infrastructure.

“Mazda as a small company alone, it is not efficient to do that, so we get together (with Toyota) to help make society better, to build up technology together. So that is the basic concept. So, the underlining policy is 50/50, a very fair alliance. And we need it largely to jointly face challenges ahead together.”

When drilled on what a giant corporation like Toyota needs specifically from Mazda, Mr Moro was less keen to go into details, but nominated speed, efficiency and adaptation as big advantages.

“Firstly, the president of Toyota, Akio Toyoda, is a real car guy, and he strongly believes he wants to make a great car for Toyota, and he believes Mazda has made great cars,” he explained. “And secondly, Toyota wonders why that tiny Mazda company can develop SkyActiv technologies and make breakthroughs with stunning design, and they have learned that Mazda has a very efficient and capable research and development engineering.

“Plus, one big challenge ahead of us is electrification and electrification architecture development. Looking towards 2030 to 2035, 10 to 15 per cent will be pure EVs, and that means for Toyota they will need a wider range of electric vehicles available. So, Toyota asked itself: ‘how can they develop those scalable architecture quick, cheap and efficient?’ They know Mazda has that capability, so they tapped on the shoulder of Mazda to do it together, so we can take a lead in this area.

“They are a great company who really understand technology and engineering, so that’s why they saw Mazda’s unique development processes and techniques as very powerful weapons if our companies get together.”

Mazda Motor Corporation has achieved a record half-year result (Japanese fiscal half year March 31 to September 30), with sales worldwide hitting 783,000 vehicles, an increase over the same period last year and the third consecutive best ever result in a row.

This contrasts to losses in excess of one billion dollars annually as recently as 2012. Major successes worldwide have included the CX-5 and Mazda3, with the medium SUV being the key turnaround product.

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