Mazda's latest EV might be hard for you to get.
After it was announced nearly two years ago, the 2022 Mazda MX-30 electric vehicle is finally set to arrive in the United States. Well, part of the US, anyway. Mazda says the EV-only variant will arrive in fall 2021, while a range-extender model with a rotary engine will follow next year as a 2023 model vehicle. While we are excited to see Mazda jump into the EV segment, there's a huge catch; the MX-30 will only be available at California dealerships.
A company spokesperson told CarBuzz, "Mazda has strategically decided to roll out its first electric vehicle in California, before expanding to other states in 2022. Mazda will pursue a national rollout over the coming years. Additional states will be added based on customer demand."
Here is what Mazda's strategy might mean for potential buyers.
It might seem strange to only offer a new EV only in one state, but it makes sense after learning about California's policies. As a state with poor air quality, California has made the largest push towards electrification with incentives aimed to get people buying EVs. California even hopes to ban combustion cars by 2035. Based on the most recent data, EVs make up more than 6.2% of all cars in California, by far the highest adoption rate in the US. Over 100,000 EVs were sold in California through 2020, so it is clearly the ideal place for Mazda to offer the MX-30.
It's also the only state to maintain unique emissions guidelines separate from the EPA, with an organization called the California Air Resources Board (CARB). Thirteen states follow the stricter CARB guidelines and vehicles offered there automatically pass EPA guidelines in the other 37. However, some vehicles sold in those 37 other states may not pass CARB tests.
States that follow the CARB guidelines must follow the zero-emissions vehicles (ZEV) program, which requires automakers to sell a certain number of EVs as a percentage of gas-powered models. With California, nine states take part in this program including Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont. Automakers must earn a certain percentage of ZEV credits for selling battery electric vehicles (BEVs), but can also earn them from plug-in hybrids (PHEVs).
The ZEV program has long contained a "travel provision" that allowed automakers to count their California sales in other participating states. This meant the six largest automakers that are subjected to these rules could bank up credits in California, and focus their efforts on that state. It also resulted in a slew of vehicles that were only offered in California.
Since automakers were essentially forced to sell a certain percentage of electric vehicles, some attempted to do so with the utmost cost efficiency. They built "compliance cars" that were often sold at a loss, simply to satisfy the ZEV regulations. The General Motors EV1 is the most intriguing historic case. Other notable examples that are no longer in production include the Chevrolet Spark EV, Fiat 500e, Ford Focus Electric, Honda Fit EV, Kia Soul EV, and Toyota RAV4 EV.
Most of these compliance vehicles had pitiful range and were no more than their gas-powered counterpart affordably retrofitted to run using an EV drivetrain. These days, there are still California-only cars, but they are much more competitive. Some examples include the Kia Niro EV, Hyundai Kona Electric, and the upcoming Mazda MX-30.
Though these cars are only available at California dealerships, there is not much to stop and out-of-state customer from buying one. However, this might not be advisable. Depending on the automaker and your state, a local dealership might not have the recourses to service one of these EVs. In the case of the MX-30, a Mazda dealership in Arkansas or Florida might not have a specialist to provide service on the car, especially when it arrives with a rotary engine.
So although the MX-30 seems like an interesting car, we predict it will have limited sales success based on limited availability, at least in the near future.