When Mazda announced it would be discontinuing the midsize Mazda6 sedan for the U.S. market, some were crestfallen. With the industry having spent the better part of a decade moving away from the body style to support models they could associate with higher price tags, there’s been a deficit of good sedans of late. But a seed of hope was left intact when the company announced it would be pulling the Mazda 6 from our market.
You see, the company had long been teasing a rear-drive variant utilizing a powerful inline-six motor. Mazda was also going upmarket, indicating the possibility of the model returning to do battle with midsized German products with a higher price tag. But it’s looking like the concept is going into the trash bin along with Mazda’s suggestion of bringing back RX performance vehicles and creating rotary range extenders for EVs.
Joachim Kunz, Mazda Europe’s engineering and development head, has basically told Autocar (shared via CarBuzz) that the profit margin for crossovers is too juicy for the company to pursue something that would actually be fun for people to drive.
“It would be very nice … to have the [front-engine, rear-driven] concept and six-cylinder engine for a Mazda6 successor or a large sports coupe. We would like to have it, but at this point in time, it’s most important to sell SUVs.” Kunz stated. “This SUV trend is continuing, and even more for Mazda. It’s what’s selling best.”
Mazda has made and broken a lot of big promises over the last few years. While that’s hardly unique for any automaker, Mazda was previously obsessed with delivering engaging driving dynamics at prices that wouldn’t break the bank. It’s since opted to go upmarket but has gradually stepped away from the old Zoom-Zoom formula that underpinned its earlier ad campaigns. It still produces fun-to-drive automobiles, most notably the MX-5 and Mazda3 Turbo, but its current focus has shifted toward delivering handsomely styled vehicles with premium-feeling interiors.
This represents a victory in some respects. The fact that Mazda can deliver slightly underpowered crossovers that aren’t totally boring to drive is indeed praiseworthy. But it’s been missing something special ever since it dumped the RX-8 and nixed future MazdaSpeed variants. One might even suggest that it needs those vehicles if it’s seriously considering becoming a competitor to brands like BMW.
We’ve received reports from Japan for years that claimed an all-new Mazda6 was forthcoming. Rumored to be based on the 2017 Vision Coupe concept, the vehicle was supposed to utilize rear-drive-biased architecture. It was later suggested that the model might be a luxury successor to the midsize sedan, offering optional AWD and a higher-output, mild-hybrid motor. Mazda even hinted that such a car was in development on more than one occasion, only to continue introducing new crossover models as it hyped electrification.
But this looks to be the final nail in the coffin. In addition to Kunz being pretty frank about the importance of SUV sales, Mazda Australia’s marketing director was already attempting to soften the blow. Last month, Alastair Doak told Drive that the prospect of a rear-drive Mazda6 was an interesting one with “heaps of speculation around it.” But ultimately settled on its chances being poor due to the popularity of crossover vehicles.
“I guess, if you look around the world … [the] traditional car/sedan market has been shrinking for many years, not just in Australia, so I guess our priority globally will be the [rear-wheel-drive] Large Architecture and [Mazda’s SUVs],” Doak said.
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