An all-new, rotary-powered Mazda RX-7 appears a step closer to being reincarnated.
“I’m just saying, my personal opinion is I’m hearing more noise. That’s all I can tell you,” he said. “And I don’t know whether it’s real or not. That’s just my impression.
“It’s not rumours, it’s less concrete than rumours. It’s just people talking about rotary, generically, more than you would expect them to be. They’re not saying we’re building one, they’re just talking about it.”
However, Benders admitted that the brand has been working hard to become profitable following several hard years of running at a loss. He indicated that the RX-7 – among other performance models – was likely to be a product of hitting a number of targets for the brand’s mainstream models.
“There is certainly a push internally to get some more serious performance cars out there,” he said. “There was a bit of a gap between RX-7 and RX-8 – not as big a gap as this one, I guess.
“Last year they made a record profit. This year they’re on track to make another record profit,” he said.
“Basically, they’ve got this thing through to March 2016 which says if they get all those ducks in a row, and they achieve that Skyactiv with all of those sort of models filling out that pipeline, then all of the rest can happen,” he said. “All the toys.”
What he meant by toys is open to speculation, but there are a number of gaps that seem likely to be filled when Mazda decides to push its performance model range back on the radar.
“The product pipeline is pretty packed. The stuff they’re going to launch in the next two years is still pretty mainstream, and you’ll see them starting to fill holes beyond that,” Benders said.
Once the bread-and-butter models have been ticked off, the new RX-7 could come into play, and while details and firm information is still a ways off, Benders admits that such a car would offer the brand an ideal halo vehicle.
“From a branding point of view it’s reasonably important. The work they did on rotary to make it commercially viable, is really the same sort of thinking that has gone into the normal reciprocating [Skyactiv] engines.
“Some of the things they’re doing, the others know about. But they’ve all sort of said it’s too hard or whatever. So they’ve taken the easy route – downsize, add the turbo, Bob’s your uncle,” he said. “It’s sort of like a cheating way. Because it’s not the most efficient way. It passes the European regulations, but it doesn’t do so well in the US because of the different regulations.”
Alongside any possible RX-7 could sit a Mazda 3 MPS hot-hatch, according to Benders – and that’s a car that could benefit from grunty new engines that may be shared between the rest of the model range.
“Mazda 3, CX-5 and Mazda 6 are all shared. So you’ve got all-wheel drive in that group. You’ve got a variable number of engines in that group. They’re a common architecture – they still shrink and move around,” he said.
Mazda Australia senior manager of public relations, Steve Maciver, suggested that any such new RX-7 model may be based on the same underpinnings as the MX-5 roadster, though any such car would likely see a stretch of the architecture.
“[Mazda global chief of sales and marketing, Masahiro] Moro-san said in New York there is the potential for the MX-5 platform, for that to grow into another sports car,” Maciver said.
“The new MX-5 is the biggest departure we’ve seen for that car in 25 years. It’s probably the biggest jump in technology we’ve seen in 25 years – it’s all-new from the ground up.”