Mazda Australia says it can definitely make a business case for the next-generation RX vehicle, with the brand's local boss admitting a rotary-powered sports car is as much about making a brand statement as making money.
“Definitely,” Mazda Australia CEO Martin Benders told CarAdvice at this week’s Tokyo motor show when asked if there was a business case for a new RX car.
“That sort of car, that is one area where it’s difficult between a marketing and sales organisation and a engineering organisation like Mazda Corporation… the engineers want to do it for the right reasons, the passion, the challenge and all that but the business guys need to make money out of it.
“They way I look it is, there is a certain amount of money you can make out of this but it’s also a big marketing investment so it drives the brand and if you don’t recognise that part of the cost of that program is to build the brand, then you’re missing the point a little bit. That’s where its value comes from, for us.”
Mazda Australia has had a successful run with rotary-cars in Australia in the past, with plenty of motorsport history as well as an avid following amongst enthusiasts and car clubs.
“Rotary has an enthusiastic following along motoring enthusiasts, it has got a hardcore group there so from that point of view it’s good for us, even amongst V8 chasers etc., they are aware of rotary and they give it some sort of begrudging acknowledgement and respect.”
Benders says that while Mazda has been strong in its design and dynamic capabilities, bringing back rotary will cement its final self-requirement of being a technology leader.
“We see our brand built on three pillars. One is the design - we think we are doing quite well - one is the chassis and dynamics side which again I think we are doing well, and there’s the technology pillar which we sort of… didn’t lose our way, we just didn’t do a lot of work there.
“Since SkyACTIV we’ve been doing a bit more work but I think for people that are engaged with cars they want something that’s a bit different. They don’t want everybody delivering cars for the masses they want something a bit special so I think RX-vision gives us a lot in that space, it gives us rotary back.”
Mazda could have easily made its grand sports car powered by a conventional engine, Benders admits, but it’s through the use of rotary, which is a challenging technology to master, that the brand will earn accolades.
“If we had a high performance normal engine in that car it would still be good but I think having a rotary in there makes it Mazda specific and starts to build that technology story a bit stronger.”
A lot is riding on the successor to the Mazda RX-8, which may or may not be called RX-9, and Mazda Australia expects the car to lift its brand credentials one step further.
“It’s the car that will do everything for us. But it really turns up the technology lever for us.”
As for when we will see the return of rotary to Mazda showrooms, it’s anyone’s guess. Rumours suggest the car will make it return towards the end of the decade to mark the 100th anniversary of Mazda but Benders suggests that timeline is not fixed in stone.
“I am sure if they overcame their challenges [with rotary’s durability, reliability and efficiency], they would bring it our earlier. It just depends on how they will solve the issues that are outstanding.”
The Mazda RX-8 went out of production in 2008 with the global financial crisis - among other things - delaying plans for a successor until the unveiling of the RX-vision at this week’s Tokyo motor show.