News from Mazda, Not All of It Good

Mazda MX-5 Miata Spyder concept

We really like Mazda cars, despite their occasional styling goofs (please stop with this Kodo and Shinari design nonsense). But it isn’t setting the world on fire with its U.S. sales. October sales here were 18,326 vehicles, up 1.7 percent over last year.

Mazda also reported a $51-million loss for its current fiscal year, first half. Sales are off in Japan, Europe and China, and the outlook for the second half is that business conditions (including a weak dollar and strong yen) will remain “harsh.” We’ll talk below about how they might turn their fortunes around.

Mazda makes sporty, well-built cars that should have wider appeal. It made a splash at SEMA with the MX-5 Spyder concept (above), a slick, soft-top, possible Boxster-fighter.

Full description is here. The so-called Bikini top just looks weird and impractical (photo after the break), and I can’t believe that part of the car would be headed for production.

Mazda MX-5 Miata Spyder concept, topAnd there is talk about reviving the Wankel, the rotary engine that made Mazda famous. CEO Takashi Yamanouchi said company engineers are developing a new engine to deliver better fuel economy and torque. We’ve heard this tune before, however.

More promising, possibly, is using the Wankel as a battery recharger in a hybrid vehicle something like the Prius. If Mazda can make this technology work—in either capacity—it will have a sharp competitive edge.

The company makes great wagons (pardon me, crossovers) in their CX series and sports hatches like the MAZDASPEED3, which is at least as good as the VW GTI or the Subaru Impreza WRX, and cheaper than either ($23,700 MSRP). A new CX-5 addition (below) is coming next year.

Cars like these, and of course the MX-5 Miata, are great values—and that, in my opinion, is what Mazda needs to stress in its marketing. Stack ’em up against the competition, point by point.

The company says it’s going to stress fuel efficiency to increase U.S. sales by 74 percent “by mid-decade.” Diesels (in 2013) and a new SKYACTIV 2-liter gas engine are coming, the latter promising 40 mpg highway with no loss in performance.

That sounds wonderful, but everyone will be stressing fuel efficiency. Mazda should stress the uniqueness of its cars, how they beat the competition, and their comparable value. It wouldn’t hurt to rethink the cars’ front ends either.

Would you be interested in the soft-top Miata concept if it got into production?


Find Used Cars in Your Area at CarGurus

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