Speaking to CarAdvice at a recent Mazda MX-5 generations drive event held in Northern Victoria – where we were given the chance to drive all four generations of the two-seat convertible back-to-back – ND MX-5 program manager and now Mazda product ambassador, Nobuhiro Yamamoto, said sports cars such as the MX-5 not only provide a way to transport people from A to B, but also for people to enjoy the journey.
Speaking through an interpreter, the man who headed up development of the second-, third-, and fourth-generation Mazda MX-5, as well as the final Mazda RX-7, said despite some difficult circumstances, the MX-5 remains a unique proposition for new-car buyers globally.
“Unfortunately, the popularity of the sports car has been declining, and we as a company have to make a business out of it,” Yamamoto-san said.
“So, we have to make a hard choice sometimes. And there’s only so many cars available in the market that are affordably-priced sports cars. So MX-5, in a sense, is very important to remain in the market, and it’s also important for Mazda, so we’d like to keep this very important car for the future.”
Keen to ensure the MX-5 continues to appeal to regular buyers as much as what he calls ‘Mazdanista’ – “enthusiast fans of Mazda” – Yamamoto-san said whatever the future holds for the model, it must be unique, respected, and able to “service” Mazda enthusiasts.
“And I believe the MX-5 is exactly what our vision is showing,” Yamamoto-san said.
“My personal point of view is that when we talk about the future direction of the vehicle, there is two things: one is, how are we going to make a vehicle, and the other one is, how are we going to enjoy this vehicle. So, one is talking about the product, the other is talking about the meaning…
“How, and what sort of direction we’re going to take is more talking about how to make a vehicle, but we’d like to respect how the owner would feel by owning those vehicles, and we want to always keep that in the vision when we develop the future products.
“And, as you know, we are a small company – we only have a two per cent of share in the world, and Australia is unique in the sense that we have 10 per cent of share. But we’re not aiming to satisfy 100 people. We’d like to have even 10 people who really enjoy and who love our product, and who continue to love our product. So we shouldn’t lose sight of looking after those people.”
Regardless of whether future MX-5s may feature hybrid or even electric powerplants, or whether the RX-7 nameplate is finally revived into a full-scale production model or not, Yamamoto-san asks fans to continue to back the brand and any future endeavours.
“I will not comment anything about what is the future for RX-7, but we exhibited the Mazda RX-Vision (pictured above) at the 2015 Tokyo motor show, and it has a rotary engine, and that shows our vision for the future direction.
“And in that, we’d like our customers to see where we are heading, and we’d like customers to support our vision towards the future.”
Asked if enough support would result in a return for the RX-7, 61-year-old Yamamoto-san – formerly in charge of Mazda’s RE racing rotary engine research department, the second- and third-generation RX-7’s rotary engine, and the mental, quad-rotor 26B engine that powered the Japanese brand to its sole Le Mans 24Hour victory in the 787B in 1991 – laughs, saying, “I believe what customers hope shows in the society, so we don’t have to speak out loudly.”