Speaking to CarAdvice at the premiere of the new CX-5, the boss of Mazda Australia, Martin Benders, said that the Japanese brand still sees a lot of potential in the internal combustion engine (ICE).
“Our goal is still to make the basic ICE more efficient and we think there is plenty of upside there. I mean, Mazda in North America is already the most fuel-efficient brand in the country without a hybrid, and we still think there is upside on that - so I don’t know that we have to race into that [hybrid variant]," Benders said.
The benefits of focusing on ICE units, Benders says, will still allow a better hybrid system when the right time comes.
“Ultimately, if you have to add the hybrid part of that - which is expensive - if you’ve made the base engine so efficient, then the amount of hybridisation you have to add doesn’t have to be as great.”
Mazda Australia doesn’t currently offer any hybrid vehicles, however the brand does have a Mazda3 hybrid on offer in Japan, which is a technology share with Toyota. (Mazda3 hybrid review here.)
As for diesels, Benders says sales of the CX-5 diesel have been steady at around 15-20 percent of the volume, with no negative impact from Volkswagen’s Dieselgate scandal.
“No, no that is solely somebody else’s [problem].” Benders says of dieselgate having a negative impact on diesel sales.
“It’s a little bit like... somebody makes a mistake or somebody does something and they extrapolate it out, it has become a disease in the modern world that people grab a mistake and extrapolate it saying if they’ve done it then everyone is doing it.
“This is where government are saying that if this is going to happen then I have to bet on a technology, so I am going to bet on electrification or I am going to bet on this. In the end, they want a CO2 number and they need to measure it from wells to wheels, and then work out how you get there.”
Benders also doesn’t support the need for incentives for hybrid or electric vehicles in Australia, a policy that has invigorated sales of the EV vehicles in places like California.
“There are brands that are doing electrification in Australia, saying the government won’t subsidise it here so it’s not a level playing field," Benders said.
"Of course it’s a level playing field. The problem is, to change from ICE to electric requires a hell of lot of infrastructure change and in a country like Australia when the distance is so great, the current state of battery and recharging and all that is not at a sufficient level to offer a viable consumer option that compares to the convenience they get out of the current engine.”
Benders says that government need to measure CO2 levels evenly, not just from the tailpipe, and focus on bringing the real CO2 levels down rather than championing certain technologies that are yet to prove themselves.
“So really, just keep focusing on where your CO2 levels are coming down to and measure it on an even basis, and then see where it gets to. If it ends up being electric wins or fuel cell wins, then that’s what wins.”
Sales of electric vehicles in Australia has championed by the likes of Tesla and upcoming vehicles from all the major German brands.