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Mazda, Toyota ‘engage’ new relationship

Badge cachet: Toyota and Mazda are forging ahead with a tie-up that has already spawned a rebadged Mazda2 sedan as a Toyota Yaris (nee Scion 1a).

Tie-up between Mazda and Toyota focuses on product improvement

Mazda logo21 Nov 2016

By TIM ROBSON

MAZDA executives are talking up the one-year-old relationship between it and the world’s largest company, Toyota, but it does not necessarily mean a rush towards hybrid for Mazda.

The deal, struck in May 2015, is a long-term strategy play by both companies that is aimed as much at product improvement as it is about sharing technology and cutting costs.

Toyota, in particular, wants to use the tie-up to help it in its mission to produce cars that add personality to the brand’s reliable and dependable tags.

Mazda Motor Corporation senior managing executive officer for research and development Kiyoshi Fujiwara told journalists at the Los Angeles motor show that the pair are actively working along three specific lines, as well as specific areas of product manufacture.

“Our relationship, we can say, has migrated from friendship to fiance,” smiled Mr Fujiwara. “I cannot talk about specifics however, we are continuously exchanging culture of the company and also some relationships between Toyota and our company in special areas.”

He offered an example of a specific line of production where Mazda has often been regarded as lagging behind its competition.

“NVH (noise, vibration and harshness), for example. Both sets of engineers have visited each company to look at programs and facilities around how to improve NVH technology,” he said. “These parts of the relationship are being done frequently.”

Mr Fujiwara explained that the car-makers are actively co-operating along two key lines of future technology, as well as examining ways to share product lines.

Mazda provided a Mazda2 sedan for Toyota’s now defunct Scion brand in 2015, which is set to fold into the US catalogue as a Toyota Yaris for next year.

The company also offers a Mazda3 hybrid in its domestic market that uses Toyota’s electric engine and battery array mated to a Mazda petrol engine.

“As for Toyota, we continue to talk about three topics,” he said. “One is electrification one is connectivity and one is sharing non-core product portfolio.

“We already provide the Mazda2 for the US with a Toyota badge, and we also got some hybrid technology in Japan, so we can share technology.”

However, Mr Fujiwara was cautious about the notion of Mazda pushing out versions of Toyota’s hybrid system across more of his company’s cars.

“Hybrid systems is an difficult one, because the Toyota system is very complicated,” he said. “If we can continue to develop our SkyActiv technology, we don’t need this kind of complicated hybrid system. We need a milder system that is suited to our SkyActiv technology.”

Mr Fujiwara would not be drawn on whether Mazda’s 2019 electric vehicle would be done in partnership with Toyota, but indicated that it was likely.

“We are developing a Mazda system by ourselves, but in terms of commercialisation of the technology, and whether it can be shared or not, that is a discussion point,” he said. “Volume is not so big, therefore in terms of the business, it better for both companies. We have not decided yet, but we will be discussing it.”

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