Executives see no point in going after BMW, but Lexus is a different story.
As far as automotive brands go, Mazda is undoubtedly one of the most underrated carmakers out there. Its lineup consists of exceptional offerings that are not only gorgeous to look at but value-driven, too. Just recently, the Japanese brand scooped several safety awards and is poised to launch a slew of new models including the CX-50 adventure vehicle and an all-new CX-60 SUV.
The brand will be moving upmarket, with future models underpinned by a new rear-wheel-drive platform and powered by inline-six engines, and it seems the ambitions are high. In an interview with Autocar, Mazda UK's managing director Jeremy Thomson has outlined where the Mazda brand is headed, making one thing clear: There are no plans to take on BMW.
"Our aspirations are to become a credible alternative to the traditional mainstream premium and that means non-German," says Thomson. "We're not looking to mimic German premium because that's very well catered for with the existing incumbents and probably impossible to beat them at their own game."
However, he feels that Japanese premium brands are lacking, citing that Mazda "strongly [feels] that there is a place for a Japanese premium and that means defining what we mean by Japanese premium and that will take some time to deliver."
In the US, we have Lexus, Infiniti, and Acura as Japanese luxury brands, but Thomson feels that "Lexus has really been the only premium Japanese brand. There is no one else in that space." However, he also claims that Mazda is "trying to find a slightly different space from where they sit today."
When asked how the company plans on targeting a mainstream audience with upmarket offerings, Thomson points to several key aspects. "It starts in quality, styling, technology and the features we offer the driver - many as standard. It's the overall experience. I wouldn't point at any one aspect." This ties in well with what Mazda is planning with its upcoming CX-60. Recently, the brand teased the crossover's cabin, emphasizing the focus on premium materials such as Japanese textiles, maple wood, and Nappa leather.
"We have a different approach to design to some of our other Japanese manufacturer colleagues in that the 'car as art' is important to Mazda, to try to have simplicity and a beautiful product that customers aspire to, rather than clutter," notes Thomson.
He also touches on the sporting ambitions of the brand. "The belief that the driver is at the heart of the car is more than just a brand cliché: it really is something that is designed in to Mazda products, going back to the fundamentals of Mazda MX-5." The Hiroshima-based brand is also reportedly working on a sporty new coupe in addition to a rotary-powered sports car to lend the practical lineup some appeal. Tackling Lexus, a brand with 33 years of experience in the luxury segment, is a tall order. But if Mazda applies just a sliver of the dedication it applies to making the MX-5 Miata such a glorious driving tool, it may just succeed.
The brand's slew of new models will certainly be part of this strategy. Apart from the aforementioned CX-60 (which won't make it stateside), Mazda's latest CX-50 is a sign of what's to come. What's more, the upcoming CX-90 is promising to be a truly luxurious SUV. Time will tell, but we can't help but feel hopeful for Mazda's lofty aspirations.