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Auto blogTue, 19 Nov 2013 14:29:00 EST
We have some very sad news to report, rotor-heads fans: Don't expect a new rotary-powered vehicle anytime soon. This comes straight from Masamichi Kogai, the CEO of Mazda, which is the only company to ever market a commercially successful rotary-powered automobile in the world. The issue, as it has pretty much always been, is environmental.
While the Wankel rotary engine does indeed make a lot of power in a small, lightweight package, it does so while burning lots of fuel and emitting lots of noxious gases into the atmosphere, at least when running on gasoline. And that means the rotary engine will likely only ever be able to power niche vehicles. And that, in turn, means that it is very difficult to turn a profit on vehicles with rotary engines, particularly for a small automaker like Mazda.
"It has to be a viable commercial proposition. If we are going to adopt it, it has to be a product that can generate at least sales of 100,000 units a year. We have to be able to achieve a profit," said Kogai in an interview with Automotive News. Mazda sold 56,203 RX-7 models in the United States (the automaker's biggest market) in 1986. Sales of the RX-8 peaked in 2004, its first full year on the market, with just 23,690 units.
Mazda, looking to make the most of its new, lightweight Skyactiv vehicle architecture, will allegedly use a version of the CX-5 crossover's platform to underpin its next-generation Mazda2 hatchback, according to a report from Just-Auto.com. Of course, the Mazda2 is a much smaller vehicle than its larger CUV stablemate, so some serious chopping will no doubt be in order when it comes time to engineer the replacement for the company's smallest hatch.
Currently, the CX-5 and the sleek new Mazda6 share many of the same platform components, and this architecture will already be scaled down to support the next-generation Mazda3 sedan and hatchback, which will debut later this year. Just-Auto.com states that all of Mazda's remaining front-wheel-drive vehicles will eventually switch to reworked versions of this Skyactiv platform, including the replacement for the larger CX-9 crossover.
Also of note, Mazda will reportedly be switching to shorter, four-year lifecycles for its vehicles. This means that the newly launched Mazda6 will be replaced for the 2016 calendar year, with a refresh coming sometime in 2014. That said, vehicles with platforms supplied by other automakers (like the upcoming MX-5 Miata replacement that will share its underpinnings with an Alfa Romeo product) will not necessarily follow this four-year rule.
2012 is almost in the books and automakers are spending December gearing up for the 2013 auto show season, which tips off next month at the Detroit Auto Show. Traditionally, the latter opens up with the announcement of the North American Car and Truck/Utility of the Year awards, and this year figures to be no different.
But up until this moment, we didn't know which six vehicles would be parked ahead of the stage as finalists, with executives and engineers waiting for the winners to be disclosed. Whittled down from October's "short list" of nominees (11 cars and 10 truck/utility vehicles), the finalists are as follows:
2013 North American Car of the Year: