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New York show: More in store for MX-5 platform

Driving force: The scalable platform that underpins the fourth-generation MX-5 is capable of generating more rear-drive models for the brand.

Mazda MX-5 platform can underpin more rear-drive models, architect says

Mazda logo21 Apr 2014

By BARRY PARK in New York

THE ALUMINIUM and steel platform that will underpin the next-generation MX-5 due on sale in Australia next year could sit underneath more rear-drive Mazda models, according to a company senior global executive.

Mazda managing executive officer in charge of global sales, Masahiro Moro, said the MX-5 platform — the only rear-drive layout in the car-maker’s current front- and all-wheel-drive skewed product line-up — could easily scale up in size to allow a bigger mix of rear-drive vehicles for the Japanese brand.

“Not only this platform, but our front-drive platform, conceptually yes it is scalable,” Moro-san said when asked if the platform could support rear-drive vehicles other than MX-5.

“It’s one of the characteristics of SkyActiv.”

Moro-san said it was not too expensive for Mazda to keep its rear-drive platform despite favouring front- or all-wheel-drive for all its other products, meaning the MX-5 nameplate would have entered a fourth generation after 25 years with or without the tie-in with Fiat ChryslerFiat Chrysler will use the Mazda platform for its own lightweight soft-top to be revealed soon.

“We are very capable to develop the platform at a reasonable cost,” said Moro-san.

“We have a lot of innovation that allows us to develop a very highly capable architecture with very low resources.

“The alliance (with Fiat) is that they asked us to provide a platform that Mazda is developing as very capable, quality engineering. So it is fine for us.”

However, Moro-san refused to be drawn on whether the platform also could be used to create a successor to the rotary-engined, rear-drive RX-8, saying only that the car-maker was still working on its plans for the unique powerplant.

Mazda will produce the next-generation MX-5 using more aluminium, eschewing the high-cost lightweight materials such as carbon fibre-reinforced plastics increasingly favoured by luxury car-makers chasing fuel economy for off-the-shelf solutions.

The emphasis on keeping build costs down is expected to also make the next-generation MX-5 more cost-competitive against the likes of Toyota’s 86 coupe, which undercuts the Mazda-badged roadster by a significant amount.

However, Mr Moro welcomed the competition that the 86 has brought to the cheaper end of the sportscar market.

“Sportscars have been in an industry that is down, so we need to reignite the heart of the consumer to provide them with a very exciting and stimulating car,” he said.

“I think the MX-5 has proven that (it is a stimulating car) because when we launched, no market existed.

“But we introduced that car in 1989, and suddenly everybody embraced it, and many competitor cars were introduced after us from Fiat, MG, Toyota, Honda even Daihatsu — everybody was trying to beat MX-5.

“Overall, consumers had lots and lots of (buying) options, but this (MX-5) is high in character,” Mr Moro said.

“So that’s why MX-5 has kept its life longer.”

Mr Moro said even after 25 years on sale and three generations, the MX-5 was still had a very strong influence on the brand.

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