It’s almost 25 years since Mazda shelved Amati, its take on Acura, Infiniti and Lexus. Given that the plans for multiple models and a bespoke W12 engine were not backed up by a rock solid balance sheet, this was the right decision. Now, with its recent concepts effortlessly showing up so many cars from the likes of Ferrari, Aston Martin and Rolls-Royce which lack beauty, it’s time for Mazda to think again.
The two stand-out cars from the Tokyo show will not be remembered for who created them but for what each represents.
We live in an age of superstar designers. Everybody knows Jony Ive and the late Zaha Hadid and when it comes to motor shows, manufacturers parade their heads of Design before the media, aiming to get their names onto screens and into print. Why? Does anyone really know who should be deservedly lauded for their work on a concept or production model’s interior and exterior?
I greatly admire the Jaguar F-TYPE, Lexus LC, Mercedes-AMG GT and Range Rover Velar as current models where every exterior detail conspires to create a beautiful car. I don’t know who styled them. I just know that each looks right.
So it is that two stand-out cars from the Tokyo motor show will not be remembered for who created them, but rather, for what each represents. The Kai concept obviously shows us the outline of the next Axela/Mazda3 and the Mazda Vision Coupe concept is a preview of…what exactly? Fascinatingly, a design study which was acclaimed as being the star of the 2015 Tokyo motor is there on display again, this time beside the Vision Coupe. What is Mazda hinting at?
The company is now back on its feet, the fear of the terrifying amounts of money it may have needed to spend on multiple high-risk technologies having subsided due to being taken under the wing of the mighty TMC. Toyota wants access to Mazda’s lean thinking and engineering methods and the Hiroshima-based firm in turn will be able to tap its giant rival’s EV, PHEV, fuel cell and autonomous tech.
Mazda needs to give the people behind these concepts the chance to create production luxury cars.
Without having to worry that one major bet on the wrong powertrains could risk yet another near-death episode – the rotary engine almost sank Mazda in the 1970s as fuel prices shot up – it’s surely now time to create a luxury division.
Given how much talent lurks within Design boss Ikua Maeda’s studios, the company needs to give these people the chance to create production cars. The ability is more than clearly present: just look at the interior of the Coupe. Then see the back end. If Ferrari ever decided to do a four-door car and it didn’t look like this, the design team will have failed.
Developing and then launching a high-end brand is very, very tough. And enormously expensive. Just look the world of trouble Groupe PSA is in with DS. For all the talk of drawing inspiration from streamliner Citroens of the long-ago past, the brand still hasn’t come up with a beautiful car. Jaguar was close to being a failure before the F-TYPE appeared. Only then did people start to take seriously what JLR was trying to do.
Everyone is doing SUVs now. Even Rolls-Royce. Mazda could ape Tesla in bringing out a wind-cleaved big car in the style of the Model S, forget about a big SUV (the Model X hasn’t lived up to the hype has it?) then add a coupe. It doesn’t have to be big volume. Upsize the new Skyactiv-X compression-ignition petrol engine to produce loads of power, offer a PHEV alternative with a rotary range extender – both are close to production – and the potential is there. People with lots of money love to spend it on beautiful objects.
As it stands, Mazda has abundant design and engineering talent within its ranks. Time for these people to be put to work on a fledging luxury brand?