Mazda Refuses to Talk About Mazdaspeed’s Future

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Mazda Refuses to Talk About Mazdaspeed’s Future

It’s been nearly half a decade since Mazda last offered a Mazdaspeed product.

Not since 2004 and 2005, when 5,142 Mazdaspeed MX-5s were delivered in the United States market, has Mazda’s most obvious performance car been available in a power-up version.

Not since the first-generation Mazda 6’s 2005/2006 Mazdaspeed tenure has Mazda’s midsize sedan been offered in performance guise.

And after following up one of the best-handling front-wheel-drive cars of its era, the Mazdaspeed Protege, with the Mazdaspeed3 in 2007 and another in 2010, Mazda hasn’t had a hot hatch contender to battle the Volkswagen Golf GTI and R, Ford’s ST and RS models, the Honda Civic Si (and now Type R), the Subaru WRX, and Mini’s Cooper S since 2013.

So, is Mazdaspeed dead? Mazda won’t say.

Company spokesperson Jacob Brown refused to comment on “future products or speculation.” However, “Mazdas are and will continue to be driver-focused vehicles, no matter their positioning in the lineup,” Brown explained to TTAC, pointing even to Mazda’s CX-9 crossover flagship as evidence that Mazda injects performance DNA into every product.

From Mazda’s perspective, the CX-9 also offers evidence of Mazda’s successful venture into a premium zone of the mainstream market. Mazda has no intention of birthing Amati a second time — it didn’t work the first time around. But 60 percent of the CX-9’s clientele, Mazda says, are choosing the top two trim levels, Grand Touring and Signature, with base prices of $41,410 and $45,255, respectively.

To Mazda, premium means “delivering a deeper bond with customers,” Brown says. “We want to be a brand that is sought out and loved by our customers at all points in the purchase process, whether before purchase, shopping, purchasing, ownership to the end, and, hopefully, repeating the cycle.”

Mazda is employing a strategy that puts current Mazda owners “in front of our engineers and designers as well as into some of our vehicles before anyone else,” Brown says. Mazda owners, not just media, were at the CX-9 launch in 2016, and special MX-5 and CX-3 drive events in 2015. Mazda’s goals for this strategy, the company hopes, will build greater desirability into its brand and its products. That may not result, indeed it will not result, in an immediate turnaround in Mazda’s paltry U.S. market share.

SEE ALSO: The One-Millionth Mazda MX-5 Miata has Returned Home

Still, according to Brown, the customer who says, “That car is an amazing value for the experience it offers,” is a customer that won’t require Mazda to race other automakers to bigger discounts and incentives.

Mazda’s North American CEO Masahiro Moro told Bloomberg the company is comfortable with its current share of the market. “Mazda is targeting a very small niche of customers,” says Moro. “These people really like driving and, to them, a car isn’t a commodity; it’s an emotional expression of their style.”

Mazda knows this strategy will not result in large volumes — there just aren’t enough buyers out there who still feel the driving experience is a vital component. “Many customers don’t care too much about driving itself — that’s fine,” Moro told Bloomberg. “We focus on a particular type of customer.”

Mazda’s current winged logo isn’t soon going to suggest Mercedes-Benz-like levels of prestige. Yet Mazda is, according to Brown, “seeing a healthy number of premium competitors show up on the consideration lists of new CX-9 shoppers.” Perhaps Mazda can be Acura before Acura becomes Acura.

But will Mazda lose the performance car buyer in the process? Mazda has but one moderately hi-po engine, the 2.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder from the CX-9, and it isn’t currently available in any other Mazda product.

How about a Mazdaspeed CX-5 with the 2.5T? “We might, it fits,” Mazda engineer Dave Coleman told MotoManTV last week, before suggesting that Mazda’s upcoming diesel CX-5, the vehicle the brand actually plans to sell, is just as torquey. “If it’s up to me,” says notoriously fun-car-oriented Coleman, “we’ll put the 2.5 turbo in there, too.”

It’s not up to Coleman. In truth, it’s not up to anybody at Mazda USA. To some degree, it’s not even up to Mazda HQ in Japan.

It’s up to the customer. And performance car customers are few and far between. Moreover, Mazda doesn’t want to do performance cars purely for the sake of performance at any cost. Masahiro Moro is on record as saying the execution of the Mazdaspeed 3 was “childish.”

Mazda believes there are enough keen drivers who want nicer Mazdas with nicer materials and less vibration for Mazda to make a premium push. Any new performance variants must fit inside the upmarket Mazda image it’s attempting to carve out for itself.

Where does that leave Mazdaspeed?

“We are aware that Mazdaspeed adds value to the brand,” Brown told TTAC, “and performance is in Mazda’s DNA.”

So he’s telling us there’s a chance.

A version of this story originally appeared on The Truth About Cars

Discuss this story on our Mazda Forum

  • Rocket

    We don’t need a MazdaSpeed CX-5, but what’s wrong with a little more power? Premium cars have power. The normally aspirated 4-cylinder isn’t cutting it against the upgraded powertrains from Ford, Subaru, etc, let alone luxury and near-luxury brands. If Mazda wants to be considered a premium brand, it really needs to address what’s under the hood. The diesel should be a step in the right direction, but a lot of customer don’t view diesels as an upgrade.

  • Chris Cerniglia

    And this is why customers are leaving there Mazdas behind on Ford dealership lots. Ford is riding the way Mazda created.

  • Vincent Finney

    I agree completely. It doesn’t have to be feast or famine when it comes to power output. They don’t need to release “SPEED” versions of their cars that put out 350+ hp/tq (although that’d be great). They just need to offer a drivetrain that has competitive power. 187hp as the top option in almost all of their models isn’t what I’d consider competitive. Plenty of other vehicles in the same market segments put out well over 200hp, some closer to 300hp.

    Also if Mazda is trying to be competitive with luxury/near-luxury brands 187hp will look laughable to anyone cross shopping.

  • Gene

    The liberals have taken over Mazda ?

  • robertburr

    History show us that MazdaSpeed was an incentive when MX-5 sales required a boost and the brand wished to reach out to loyal customers who needed a good excuse to upgrade. If MX-5 RF sales don’t meet projections (or maybe even if they do), you can expect an RF turbo to be revealed to convince those that are on the fence to move up.

  • Gavin Varitech

    The base 3 series in the US market (320i), the one most likely to be cross shipped with a Mazda6, has 180 hp.

    The base A4 in the US market, the one most likely to be cross shopped with the a Mazda6, has 190 hp.

    The base TLX has 206.

    The base Q50 has 208.

    All are less than 10% difference in HP. Not to mention the turbos in that list have less usable power throughout the powerband than the naturally aspirated Mazda, regardless of the peak HP number.

    The base price of all of these cars cost more than a fully loaded Mazda6 Grand Touring, but people still cross shop them (I certainly did) because they are close enough. The power numbers are all right in the same area. Some a little lower, some a little higher. 187 is hardly laughable to people considering these cars that have 180, 190, 200, etc HP.

    The IS200t and the C Class (c300) are the only ones not in that same power range. And at their lowest lowest they’re still $10,000+ more than a Mazda6 Grand Touring. So it isn’t as likely to be cross shopped as the BMW, Audi, Acura, or Infiniti.

  • Nick

    Always been a Mazda buyer (MX6, RX8, 3, 6, CX9) and then I drove the GTI and bought it. The 6 and 3 were very nice but didn’t put a smile on my face in the power dept.

  • Gavin Varitech

    “Masahiro Moro is on record as saying the execution of the Mazdaspeed 3 was “childish.””

    Absolutely! 100%. I’m the kind of person that would spend the money on a Mazdaspeed 3 if they came out with a new one, but not if it looked like the kid/toy racer that the last one did.

    I’d love more power, but if they want to sell these things for the price they want the near-premium, adult design language they’ve been going with of late is the right way.

  • Vincent Finney

    Agreed on all points. The issue is, at least when considering power, a top of the line Mazda only compares with entry level options from other manufacturers. Mazdas may be cheaper than cars they’re frequently cross-shopped with, but there’s no option for more power even if someone is willing to pay more for it. I’m not saying they should replace all of their engines, I’m saying there should be a higher performance option similar to what is available on a BMW 3, Audi A4, Ford Focus, Toyota Camry, and most other cars a Mazda would directly compete with.

  • ZJR

    If you’re just looking at the number of HP, you’ve missed the point entirely. You need to drive the new CX-5 and compare with one of these turbo SUVs in its class. You’ll see overall the CX-5 is way better to drive. If Mazda did decide to put the CX-9’s turbo engine in the CX-5, it would completely blow all the other turbo engines out of the water, even if it has less HP. Mazda focuses on the overall driving, while other manufacturers throw in a crappy turbo that isn’t even tuned right just to say “we have a turbo!!”

  • ZJR

    Ford sucks balls.

  • Gavin Varitech

    LOL, not they aren’t.

  • ZJR

    It’s not the number of HP that makes a car fun to drive. Mazda gets it.

  • Gavin Varitech

    I agree with you. I’d like that option myself (owner of two Mazda 6’s, an older V6 and a brand new 6 Grand Touring). Just saying 187 hp is not laughable for people cross shopping within any reasonable range in the price of the car, since the entry level premium cars they’d be cross shopping them with have similar power numbers. When it comes down to it there’s enough people picking the Mazda in these scenarios to make Mazda happy. I know I went into my last buying process wanting an Audi, hoping to love the TLX if I didn’t go Audi, but couldn’t come close to getting the A4 I wanted for anywhere near what I paid for the 6 and the TLX’s interior/center stack/dashboard makes it unbuyable.

  • Vincent Finney

    I’m not personally looking for pure numbers, but I’ve driven a few Mazdas over the years (including the current 6). While they’re fun to drive, feel composed and handle beautifully, I can’t help but want some more power. Even if you’re satisfied with their engine options as they stand, you can’t deny that around 240hp would make for a more exciting drive without any real drawbacks (other than price). I’ve also been in a Speed6, Speed3, and a few modified Miatas and they all retained that “Zoom Zoom” factor of overall driving enjoyment even with over 100hp more than what’s currently offered on new models.

    And looking at it from a marketing perspective, numbers sell. Most people buying cars don’t care about overall performance, they care about numbers. It’s not smart, but to the average buyer more is better.

  • Gavin Varitech

    The drawback isn’t price as much as it is gas mileage and overall fleet MPG numbers. Mazda is doing that without electrification and, until/except the new CX-9, all with naturally aspirated engines.

  • Vincent Finney

    I’ll agree with you again. My co-worker bought a new Mazda 6 last year. He was cross shopping it with an Infinty Q50, Cadillac ATS and VW CC, but ended up going with the Mazda because it was much cheaper yet still very nice overall (and he got a loyalty bonus trading in his Mazda 3).

    He’s still happy with his 6 and plans on keeping it until the wheels fall off, but he strongly considered spending $12k more to get the V6 Q50 because he felt the power in the 6 was lacking (literally the only reason). If Mazda had offered the 2.5t in the 6 he would have bought it without cross shopping at all.

  • ZJR

    I understand a few extra HP on Mazdas would make them better, because they’re already tuned to be great to drive. My point is that many of these other cars with a turbo engine and more power don’t actually do much with that power in real world driving conditions. Throwing on a turbo engine on a car that’s shit to drive overall doesn’t make it any better. The other cars that are tuned to drive as well (or perhaps better than) Mazdas are premium European cars that cost a hell of a lot more. As for the average buyer thing, Mazda is content not to target the average buyer.

  • getoffme

    Unless you are Toyota 86 right?

  • ZJR

    Toyota makes cars for people that hate life.

  • getoffme

    Sure thing. If that makes you feel better.

  • Chris Cerniglia

    They have. Know many that either jumped into a Focus or Fiesta ST. One went from MS6 into an SHO. I have actually had members of my autoclub go from new 6’s into older Mazda’s for the fun factor. Say what you will, there are sales Mazda is missing and it is their own fault.

  • Chris Cerniglia

    Yeah, I guess. ST’s still spank MPS’s on the track stock for stock.

  • willl

    that sso true, ford benefited alot of from mazdas donkey work on that 2.3 little direct injection engine. Ford kept the rights to it and used it to develop their engines and also philosophy behind the ST brand of vechiles. Many people who were mazda enthusiasts have moved on to ford because mazda has nothing new to offer.

  • ZJR

    I don’t care about that. I care about the overall driving experience, looks, and reliability, which Ford can never beat Mazda on with their ugly shitty soulless cars.

  • Craig Freger

    I am a Mazda fan (currently have both the new MX-5 and a Mazda6), but Mazda’s message is schizophrenic. “Driving matters… [but] Mazdaspeed [is] childish.” Huh?

  • Craig Freger

    The 86 is all Subaru, except for the styling (mostly Toyota) and the fuel injection (a joint Subaru /Toyota effort).

  • Matt

    Mazda used to be about performance. The Mazdaspeed 6 I had was fun to drive but lost on reliability and dealer experience. It was the least reliable car I have had in 20+ years.
    Timing chain defective and not covered by warranty. Direct Injection created massive carbon buildup on the valves and required replacement. The final straw was rust in multiple places. What initially appeared to be a good value ended up as the worst possible.

  • Paul Thomas

    It’s not complicated. An enduring brand needs identity and Mazda is not nearly as strong there as it needs to be. We (I am affiliated) do not know exactly who we are and the public can tell. There is a racing heritage, and I’m talking rwd Wankel Rotary powered heritage. Porsche will not let you forget their heritage and neither should Mazda. There must ALWAYS be a proper sports car in the lineup and I am not talking well balanced roadster as great as that can be, more big brother (RX-7) that can stand up on the world stage or track and be applauded.
    Back to Mazdaspeed; I’m with Moro San, the name is not necessary and perhaps a bit juvenile in what it has come to represent. Tuned versions of cars can be marketed at ‘Signature’ editions or Signature Plus or something, where they are premium but performance as well. This is easy almost immediately with the 3 and 6 which can accomodate the 2.5 turbo.
    Last point: ‘Driving Matters’ does not convey well. Not sure if that was the best way to translate ‘Be a driver’ from Mazda Japan or something. If you check my instagram and Facebook you will see some more fitting slogans for our brand.

  • AutoXRacer

    I will say this, having owned several Mazdaspeeds. Mazda does not support their Mazdaspeed customers and vehicles like they do their other non-performance oriented vehicles. They market these vehicles (Mazdaspeed) as a performance vehicle, yet if you drive it with any slight sportiness, they are quick to void your warranty.

    Example, my latest and last Mazda product was a 2008 Mazdaspeed 3. I took it autocrossing and upon taking the vehicle in for service, they questioned me why I swapped my wheels/tires 8 times. They interrogated the vehicles computer and voided my warranty because they assumed I raced. If anyone knows anything about autocrossing, the highest speeds attained are within legal street speed limits.

    Anyway, they are not interested in supporting their Mazdaspeed products and this has put a damper on demand for these vehicles within previous owners and have lost return customers.

    Just my opinion…

  • Chuck

    Exactly. The design nature is the exact reason I’m not interested in driving the new Honda Type R, which has more spoilers, scoops, bulges, and fake diffusers and inlets than a spaceship. The Ford Focus ST and RS, as well as the Suburu WRX aren’t much better. They’re all designed for the “boy racer” image, and I’d be embarrassed to be seen in any of them. The only hatch in this price or performance range that looks somewhat grown up is the Volkswagen GTI and R. I currently own a 2016 Mazda 3 GT S, and while I like it, I’d be VERY interested in a version of this vehicle with the 2.5 turbo, without the addition of spoilers, flaps, scoops, etc. It should be named something other than “speed” too.

  • Chuck

    I own a 2016 Mazda 3 GT hatchback with the 2.5 engine, and it’s ok in the power department, but not as quick as the GTI, although I think it gets a bit better gas mileage. I prefer the looks of the 3 over the GTI, but because of the performance edge, I might be looking at the GTI or R in another year or two. On the other hand, if Mazda would put the 2.5 Turbo into the Mazda 3, without adding a bunch of “boy racer” spoilers, scoops, etc., I’d be very interested in that vehicle.

  • AutoXRacer

    Totally agree!! I owned a 1999 Miata and loved that car. Nothing but pure happiness. Mazda was very supportive too. Then I upgraded (powerwise) to a 2008 Mazdaspeed 3 and I started having the worst customer service experience I have ever experienced. To the last straw that my warranty was voided because I participated in autocross events. I thought these were performance cars?? It was never an issue with the Miata…

    I traded in my 2008 Mazdaspeed 3 for a 2008 Ford Mustang (ROUSH Stage 3 Mustang). Ford and Roush have been very supportive of my autocross participation.

  • Stephen Hadley

    I totally agree with everything you say here. Mazda’s new slogan does not convey well at all. I think 99% of everyone just thinks it’s weird – they don’t get it. I’m afraid Mazda might be going down the road of BMW – selling their soul for sales. The 3 and 6 are really fun to drive and great cars, but they should have an RX model and a hot version of the 3 as well. Sure, the MAZDASPEED versions were a bit childish, but there’s no reason they can’t evolve into more mature and sophisticated vehicles while still being fast and fun to drive.

    If they really are trying to go after the car enthusiast niche (lately, I’m not convinced), they need to talk to their fans.

  • Kenneth Elliott

    Engine is subaru but the dual injection setup was designed by toyota

  • Luis

    I want to point that the word childish was a bit of tongue Snafu. I dont think that was the exact word he meant to say. English is a second language and perhaps he didnt mean quite like that. I understand Mazda is trying a different angle but they shouldnt deny their heritage..

  • AutoXRacer

    Obviously you haven’t test driven any of their latest vehicles…
    I used to be the biggest Mada fan and racer, until I got treated like crap when owning Mazdaspeed products.