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Mazda gives MPS a fighting chance

Turbo time: The 2.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine from the new-gen CX-9 might end up under the bonnet of other Mazdas in the future.

Performance-honed Mazda MPS models not out of the question

Mazda logo18 Apr 2016

By TIM NICHOLSON

THE Mazda executive in charge of the Australian market says the company’s dormant MPS performance arm might yet be resurrected, despite other Mazda execs suggesting it was on the backburner.

MPS was shelved with the discontinuation of the Mazda3 MPS in 2013, but the go-fast division had built up a loyal following thanks to performance-focused models that also included the first-generation Mazda6.

Speaking at the opening of Mazda Australia’s new Melbourne headquarters last week, Mazda Motor Corporation senior managing executive officer in charge of Asia and Oceania Yuji Nakamine said the door was definitely still open for the MPS brand.

“I don’t reject the possibility of MPS in the future,” he said. “But Mazda are careful about how we deploy our engineering resources for the best interest of customers in the market.

“If there is opportunity, or if we can make the MPS business feasible, I think we can study and we should study. At this moment, that is something that we can study for the future and I don’t reject the possibility.” However, speaking with journalists at last month’s New York motor show, Mazda North American Operations president and CEO and Mazda Motor Corporation managing executive officer Masahiro Moro said that the car-maker was too busy focusing on improving the business of its core SUV and passenger models and that MPS was not a priority.

“So MPS is not on my agenda right now in the US,” he said at the time.

While there are no firm plans for an imminent roll-out of the MPS brand, Mr Nakamine said there was a possibility that the new turbocharged SkyActiv 2.5-litre petrol engine from the upcoming second-generation CX-9 SUV could spread to other Mazda models.

“We are really excited about this engine because this engine generates the performance. It will be fantastic if we can take advantage of this 2.5 (litre) turbo engine for various options I think for the future.

“First we really want to see the reaction from the market about this powertrain.” These comments confirm what Mr Moro said about the 169-186kW 2.5-litre turbo four-pot at the New York show.

“I think it is technically possible,” he said last month. “If you see the marketability, it could be one possibility in the future.” There has been speculation of a rebirth of MPS since it was effectively killed off in 2013, and it was believed to be close to returning last year with reports suggesting it would be announced at the 2015 Frankfurt motor show, but nothing was confirmed at the time.

Mr Nakamine acknowledged that the return of MPS could help Mazda in its push to appeal to buyers of premium brands.

“MPS may be something that might help improve the brand further. We will continue to look at possibilities of MPS for the future.” Mr Nakamine said that while Mazda is working on developing electric vehicle and hybrid technology, it would not come to market for some time given the slow sales globally of electrified cars.

“We are studying, developing that EV type of tech for sure on top of the SkyActiv. But at this moment, still the EV or that kind of segment is not big enough so we have to focus on improving the current SkyActiv technology to be more fuel efficient and more environmentally friendly and then we can add electric devices to the powertrain.

“The US, Europe have very strict regulations. If we have to comply, we have to comply. In that respect we need those kind of electric devices in the future. We carefully monitor how we can comply with legal regulations for that. But still maybe we cannot introduce or increase volume of EV overnight, we have to be very careful. We have to have very feasible business model for this one.” A number of alternative fuel technologies were being studied by Mazda, according to Mr Nakamine, including hydrogen, which it has previously developed for the 2006 RX-8 fuel-cell car.

“Even today we are looking at maybe several alternatives. But we have to be prepared for technologies to bring our vehicle compliant with our regulations. So maybe hybrid, we are looking at several alternatives.” Mazda and Toyota signed an agreement last year to collaborate on future projects, and while neither car-maker has announced what the projects could be, reports have suggested that Mazda will share information on producing fuel-efficient naturally aspirated engines, while Toyota will share its expertise in hybrid and EV tech.

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