The Simple Reason Why Mazda Is Against Being Trendy


Designers at Mazda draw inspiration from nature, fashion and beautiful products when crafting the brand’s cars and crossovers.

This probably isn’t too different from how other automakers’ studios function, but what sets this Japanese car company apart is an emphasis on something less tangible: emotion. “How does that make you feel, and how can that translate into a vehicle’s exterior design?” asked Jacques Flynn (pronounced Jack), Mazda’s lead designer.


A 10-year veteran at the scrappy Hiroshima-based firm, Flynn’s resume is impressive by any stretch, even if he hasn’t been in the business as long as, say, Hyundai-Kia’s Peter Schreyer or one of the Callum brothers. Among other projects, he led the development of the current MX-5 and played an important role in creating both the CX-5 and CX-9.

Whether it’s a sports car or crossover, one thing that sets Mazda’s lineup apart from those of rivals is its unified appearance. All their products have a certain cohesiveness to them, like they were created by the same team, a feat not many automakers are able to achieve.


Enabling this visual harmony is an overarching design theme. Kodo “soul of motion” has been a Mazda staple for about five years now. It’s a styling ethos characterized by clean surfaces, attention to detail and the notion that human hands can give vehicles a soul. Is this design or some sort of animistic religion? At Mazda, it’s both.

“That’s why I think our cars have got this unique feeling to them, they don’t feel generic, they don’t feel like any other marque out there,” said Flynn. Kodo gives them a stylistic edge.

SEE ALSO: Mazda RX Vision Concept Previews Rotary Revival

However, this advantage doesn’t come easily and it cannot be taken for granted. Case in point, the brand’s RX Vision concept that debuted at the Tokyo Motor Show in 2015. “That car was hard,” said Flynn, laughing while recounting the challenge it presented. “The complexity to that surfacing is really, really difficult.”


He added there are no lines on this rotary-powered design study, just simple surfacing, which he noted requires strict volume control; something that’s tough to achieve. “But at the same time,” he added, “When it’s done right, you end up with something really beautiful and timeless.”

Kodo has been a quintessential part of Mazda’s DNA for the better part of a decade, but curiously designers are not afraid of it getting stale. In fact, they have no plans to replace it with a new theme anytime soon.

“It’s not, ‘Yeah, alright, out with the old, in with the new’… that’s not the plan,” explained Flynn while talking about Kodo’s future. “I think it’s got a ton of room to evolve and in my opinion, improve,” something they plan on doing by continuing to refine its signature forms and flourishes. “And that comes down to just boiling it down, just keep boiling it down and refining it to its purest form.”


As Kodo evolves Flynn admitted he’s not sure if they’ll ever distil it down to its most elemental essence, but that’s not going to prevent them from trying. “That’s an ultimate goal,” he explained, “That our whole lineup just feels timeless.”

Sculpting a beautiful car is one thing, getting it into volume production is quite another. Fortunately for Mazda, their design and engineering departments are closely knit, working to serve one another.

SEE ALSO: 2017 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF Review

In California for instance, Flynn said the engineering department is just upstairs from their design studio, allowing for an unusually close and cooperative relationship between these two divisions, something that allows Mazda to produce more stylish and innovative vehicles. “We never go to them and they say, ‘There’s no way. That’s crazy.’ They’re like, ‘Alright, this is going to be difficult give us some time’… they’re always wanting to challenge,” said Flynn. “You couldn’t ask for a better situation.”


He also talked about the mutual respect each department has for the other. “They want us to achieve our vision, at the same time we want to support them and deliver something that can be packaged properly,” explained Flynn, adding that this collaborative spirit allows Mazda to really push their design in ways rival automakers may not be able to.

Love it, loathe it, or merely like it, Mazda’s Kodo design theme is here to stay, giving the company’s vehicle lineup a unique and cohesive appearance. “We don’t want our cars to feel trendy… the cars have got to age really, really well,” said Flynn.

Discuss this story on our Mazda Forum


kingRidiculous says:

I love my 2010 RX-8, but it would be great if Mazda made another rotary sports car!

ZJR says:

The rotary engine is a failed experiment. I’d much rather Mazda devote their limited resources to improving their current cars and engines.

Luis says:

If taking care of the Rotaries are usually pretty good. They took care of most of the problems. The knuckleheads either dont follow instructions or abuse the cars. I do agree that they need to focus on current cars. The rotary is more of just a niche thing that only a small amount of people would be interested in purchasing. Dont listen to internet enthusiast who say they will buy one. 90% of them are just talk. In its 8 1/2 year run the Rx8 sold less than 75K units. Most of them came during 2004 when the Fast and F hype reached its high lol…

Kevin says:

if they made a new one i would be first on the lot to take delivery, as buying used you never know. like you said many idiots did not listen to instructions and messed them up

Luis says:

That would be nice. Although im not gonna even pretend. I couldnt afford one. I think right now there priority has shifted away from making niche cars. I love Mazda we have 3 in our household. Although Mazda is a niche manuf. So making a niche product right now doesnt make sense. They have the Miata for that. They need more volume to keep them afloat. I remember reading a article a while back they really need to be near the 400K mark in the US. Since sedan sales are tumbling quickly its going to be hard for them to keep near that amount. Im guessing at some point they will release another CUV. Thats what selling now. Maybe put a rotary in a Miata?

Ratchet88 says:

Failed experiment? The 787b was a masterpiece. Mazda allowed the consumer to take home a part of thier history in Motorsports. ‘Failed’ is not ever a word one should use to describe what they’ve done with the rotary. I own an 05 RX-8 myself and wouldn’t trade it for anything, it’s one hell of a car. If you have any interest in driving other than to get from point A to B, I urge you to try any one of thier rotary cars at a track or even some backroads. They do not disappoint. The rotary is a big part of Mazda’s history and I’m glad they kept it around, they provide a driving experience only a rotary could provide and rotary owners could understand.

Kevin says:

or even rotary fans, I test drove a few rx8s and loved em, in fact the only reason i did not get one, was at the time i could not afford to keep up with the maintenance they require to be reliable long lasting cars. they say you compare rotaries to an engine with double their displacement when comparing to a piston engine so an rx8 would compare to a 2.6l v6, i6 or i4 but at the time i guarantee you had more power then anything using pistons displacing 2.6L

Luis says:

The turbo charged Rotaries were not meant to be everyday drivers. On top of this people screwed around with them and didnt follow instructions. Its a sports car not a daily. It was a car meant to take out on the weekends and such. The regular rotaries are pretty reliable. Especially if you go 09 an up.

Kevin says:

and realize every few drives you must check the oil a rotary can be a daily driver but requires TLC and someone who understands what the car is and how it functions, the rotary engine in the rx8 burns oil automatically to keep the seals lubed and therefore requires more oil to be added occasionally as well as the spark plugs to be changed more frequently, but like anything with moving parts it will break.

Luis says:

Yep..Oil should be checked about every 500 miles..People arent going to do this..My sisters never check their oil for

muataz shammari says:

Not more rotary, that from inside but a serious car is coming Very serious

kingRidiculous says:

In a perfect world it would be normally aspirated (pistons is fine) with no batteries and weigh 3,000 lbs or less. I’m sure what we will get will be turbo’ed, battery-hybrid and weigh 3,600 lbs.

Maddog says:

I own a 2004 RX-8, 6 speed, keep the car in mint condition and have to say, it has been one of the most fun cars I have ever owned. Being a mechanic and enjoying giving a little extra TLC to the Wankel engine, I still get goose bumps revving that engine up to 9000 & 10000 RPM. If Mazda woke up and decided to come out with that beautiful RX-9, I would get one in a heartbeat!

Luis says:

The company right now is looking for sales as they should be. Sedan sales are down for example. Adding another RX car will only marginally increase sales. They already have 1 Halo car in the Miata. The govt regulations are tough and are getting tougher. Get the word out to friends and family and help the small guy out. Maybe who knows if they are in a better place you might see one.

Bug S Bunny says:

And support the pending rollback of EPA standards.

Some Guy says:

Support new technologies that automakers are releasing. Electric and hybrid vehicles are the future, and we as enthusiasts have a ground floor opportunity in shaping what will become. Rolling back EPA standards just kills your grandkids and the world, where building the foundation of what will become transcends generations and gives everyone a better future. Going against innovation only hinders what could be and pads the pockets of dinosaurs peddling their fuel.

Bug S Bunny says:

No, the EPA standards have reached their limit. Time to reel them in.

Luis says:

What we want is a dial back. Perhaps push these standards and regulations just a little. Maybe push back these regulations 5 or 6 years.

Luis says:

Not exactly what i meant but i do agree on rolling back these standards some. What i really meant is get the word out on Mazda to friends and family who will normally go with the Sheepls choices. I have myself convinced two people last year to buy Mazda instead of the usual boring choices. Im working on my GF now lol. Thats what i meant by get the word out lol..

Kevin says:

only reason they wont is emissions crap and mpg now, government ruined our fun

Perry F. Bruns says:

I’m glad they’re staying with Kodo. While I feel like the Mazda3’s forward proportions are a little long, I like the overall look of their lineup.

Jeff T says:

I read the Chevy Equinox review and then came to this article next. That car is the definition of an appliance while Mazda cars clearly have some soul to them. Simply put the Equinox gets you to where you want to be and the Mazda gives you a driving experience. Please Mazda never build cars for the masses.

Bug S Bunny says:

And this is what separates Mazda from other Asian automakers.

ZJR says:

Mazda makes cars for people that:

1) Don’t hate life
2) Don’t have 70 grand to spare

Kevin says:

well I hate life, but love it in my mazdas!

Joshua Finley says:

This is why I love and respect Mazda more than the other car makers. They are not afraid to take risks and they always want to be different from everybody else. The KODO design is absolutely beautiful, especially the Miata, Mazda 6, and of course the epic RX-Vision

Kevin says:

Big reason I buy them, that and they are fun and reliable as well as inexpensive to fix and easy to work on something very hard to find these days, I have a 2011 3 hatch currently and the permanently disturbed smile on the front is a big talking point, I like it as I am a disturbed(hard rock/metal band) music fan and they have a monster character they use on a lot of album art and it has a big resemblance to that character’s face and I like it. that and owning a mazda means you have to be different and stand out and that’s another thing no one does anymore everyone must look like everyone else, screw that

octogon says:

As a 2014 Mazda 6 Owner, I can say that KODO moves me, in many ways. My first Mazda was a 1995 Mazda Protege and it ran for 13 years w/o any major issue, other than an oil seal leak. It was a FULL MAZDA before the Ford Fiasco. When Mazda separated from Ford, and introduced Shinari and Takeri, I fell in love again! And the 1st Time I saw the new 6, I knew I had to have one. My 2006.5 KIA Optima died (likely due to the recent recall) on the interstate 4 weeks after seeing it, giving me the opportunity to do so. I look forward to the 4th Generation Mazda 6 (HOPING it will carry features from the RX-Vision), as a potential replacement of my current one. However, for me, it will be Mazda for a long time to come!

As far as the EPA measures are concerned…Electrify the Mazda and take “Zoom-Zoom” to the next level!!

roundthings says:

They actually are being trendy when it comes to stupid fancy dash controls and floating screens. Their designs can also be called trendy.
The vehicles themselves are hard riding handling vehicles that go against the way they look and function now.
Sales are down for a reason