Speaking to CarAdvice at the Tokyo motor show this week, Mazda’s director and senior managing executive officer of R&D, Kiyoshi Fujiwara, confirmed the reported 2020 timeline of the next-generation rotary sports car, first previewed by the RX-Vision in Tokyo two years ago, is now unlikely.
“By 2020 we cannot provide RX-Vision in the market, we will not have enough money to invest and commercialise RX-Vision,” Fujiwara said.
According to Fujiwara, it has taken Mazda a great deal of time to free itself from debt, but the company won't be stable enough to invest in halo products – such as a rotary sports car – until it has larger cash reserves, in case it has a miss with a major product.
“After decades, we are free of debt now finally. We have to become the company that is rich enough so that we can still be profitable even with the failure of one or two programs. We have to keep going, we have to survive.
“In 2020 we have the centenary year, this is a long, long history, we have to continue the business of Mazda, we have got a lot of the employees in the world, therefore, we have to continue business itself and if some project make mistakes, then company is going [sideways] we cannot do that, we should have some money now to take a risk with the RX vision and rotary engine – that is my dream. That is our dream”
For now, it appears that the timeline for development of an RX-8 successor depends entirely on the success of Mazda’s upcoming product line, backed with the brand’s new SkyActiv X powertrains.
“If we achieve [this] successfully, we can get enough money to invest in next challenge, then we can judge to go ahead,” Fujiwara said.
The other issue facing the next-generation rotary sports car is the global shift toward banning internal combustion engines in cities. Fujiwara says Mazda will produce a rotary sports car utilising an electric powertrain to circumvent such restrictions in some countries, but Australia will more than likely get a pure rotary powertrain when it goes to market.
The good news is that Mazda appears to be working on the rotary sports car, even whilst honestly admitting its financial challenges. The company’s technical research boss, Mitsuo Hitomi, says that it would take at least five years to develop a new rotary engine.
Apart from financial considerations, other reasons for the delay appear to surround the longevity of the rotary – making sure it's here to stay in the long term, with Fujiwara stating “once we introduce rotary engine again I want to make sure rotary engine is continued forever”.
RX-8 production ended in 2012 and, with the introduction of another rotary sports car likely to wait until some point after 2020, a near-decade gap between the cars now appears likely.