How to make sense out of the bewildering differences in strategy by automakers today? In the case of Mazda, which rejects hybrid vehicles as a fad, the strategy may be one of necessity.
Mazda R&D chief Seita Kanai confirmed last week that Mazda still has no plans to commercialize its own hybrid technology, according to a report last week in Automobile Magazine. The Japanese automaker markets a hybrid version of its Tribute, a small SUV, which Automobile Magazine writes off as a Ford engineered system closely resembling the technology in Ford’s Hybrid Escape. Kanai said Mazda will achieve mandated fuel economy savings by improving engines and transmissions, and by redesigning vehicles to reduce their weight.
But Kanai also admitted at the same event for reporters in Japan last week that Mazda couldn’t afford to field a hybrid. And he acknowledged that the resulting technology gap represented a worrisome problem for the company with buyers enamored of hybrids. Here’s how Kanai put it, according to Automotive News:
“We’re in real trouble,” Kanai said of the rapidly falling hybrid prices. “It’s a threat. We don’t have the resources to get involved in that kind of competition.”
They could be even further behind if one is to believe plans by automakers such as Nissan and Ford to aggressively push into fully battery-powered electric vehicles (EVs). Nissan is now considering selling its first battery EV in the U.S starting next year–two years faster than it had previously planned, according to another report today from Automotive News.
Quoting Mark Perry, Nissan’s U.S.-based product planning and strategy director, the report says rollout of Nissan’s EV will track the rollout of charging infrastructure, city-by-city. Presumably a thumbs up from the Department of Energy on Nissan’s request for loans to build an EV battery plant in Tennessee could also affect the Japanese automaker’s appetite for taking a bet on EVs in the U.S.
This post was created for the Technology Review Potential Energy blog