At the unveiling of the all-new third-generation Mazda 3, Mazda Australia managing director Martin Benders confirmed the local division’s desire for a high-performance flagship to sit atop its small-car range, but conceded there was no definite timeline for the model at this stage.
“It’s always on our wish list because we think that has some benefit in terms of driving the brand – especially this sort of design – but it’s not confirmed in the cycle at this point,” he said.
Speaking exclusively with CarAdvice, Benders said the Japanese manufacturer was still debating exactly what form the halo model would take, suggesting a new Mazda 3 MPS in the mould of the current hot-hatch was just one option on the table.
“All the markets want some kind of halo car, with variations. There are a number of different ways to do that, so they’re the discussions we’re having.
Benders said the MPS replacement would have to wait until Mazda had finalised the development of other volume products in its portfolio, however; primarily the all-new Mazda 2 – which itself was pushed back to allow for the acceleration of the Mazda 3 redesign – and potentially the next-generation MX-5, which is being co-developed with Alfa Romeo.
“The key thing you’ve got to remember with Mazda is that they’ve had a few pretty tough years,” he said.
“They’re getting back into profit now, but they’ve got to change their whole core model line-up.
“They’ve only got a certain number of engineering resources, so the thing is you’ve got to get your bread and butter stuff in place first then you can afford to put in the nice stuff.
“So it’s there [an MPS successor], but in terms of exactly what it will be and when, that’s the issue. It’s not that they don’t want to do it, it’s about what makes sense.”
Benders also confirmed Mazda Australia has put its hand up for the new 2.2-litre four-cylinder Mazda 3 Diesel to join the line-up sometime after the early-2014 launch of the 2.0- and 2.5-litre petrol models.
The alternative powertrain currently accounts for just four per cent of total Mazda 3 sales in Australia, or roughly 410 of this year’s 16,405 five-month total.
“The trouble with diesels is they’re a little more expensive,” the managing director lamented.
“They will always want a premium that’s bigger than what the Australian market will be at, so it’s always a negotiation of where can you position it.
“We would like to have a diesel right down at the base level like Volkswagen does, but at the moment we have it at the upper end.”
Benders admitted Mazda Australia wasn’t in a mad rush to get the diesel into showrooms given its relatively low volumes.
“It’s not a big part of the segment so we can live with it not being there for a while until we get our act together on it. It’s more in that vein than that we can’t have it.
“We think that just the 2.0- and the 2.5-litre [petrol engines] at launch will be our bread and butter for that period. It’s not something that you would do normally, but in this particular circumstance it works.”
Benders would not put a date on an approximate arrival time for the new Mazda 3 Diesel, but suggested it would appear “down the track”, used as an injection to freshen the range and put the Mazda 6 back in the spotlight after the shine of the launch has worn off.
Read: 2014 Mazda 3 revealed.