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Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller, D-WV, held an all-day summit on Thursday to discuss the dangers of using modern technology while driving, during which an ad that Mazda aired during the Super Bowl was used as an example of the worrisome future towards which we're headed. While seemingly innocuous at first glance, the ad, which can be seen below, shows a brief glimpse of a driver using the Mazda Connect infotainment system in a Mazda3 to check/update his Facebook page while driving down the road.
Officials from major communications companies like Samsung, Google and Apple attended the summit, as well as representatives from automakers including General Motors and Toyota. A representative from Mazda was not present despite the company's own currently available technology being used as the poster child for the issues being discussed.
According to Automotive News, Senator Rockefeller warned the automaker and communication execs on hand that he will propose legislation to regulate the use of technology while driving if they don't work together to implement their own standards more quickly. Michael Robinson, GM's vice president of sustainability and global regulatory affairs, argued that his company has had distracted driving guidelines in place for 15 years since the advent of its OnStar system, noting that the technology in question has also helped the automaker save lives through automatic crash detection and calls to 911.
Here it is, ladies and gentlemen, straight from the memory cards of our own cameras. As you can see, the only version of the 2014 Mazda3 that the automaker is showing off at the moment is the hatchback, but we've gotten confirmation from Mazda that the sedan version will be shown sometime within the next five weeks.
So far, Mazda isn't commenting on whether or not we can expect a higher-performance Mazdaspeed3 version of the car, but we've got our fingers crossed. In any case, we're quite drawn to the appearance of this new hatchback from Mazda, with its flowing lines and character creases setting it apart from the rest of the compact segment in which it competes.
We also appreciate the sound engineering that went into the new 3. Despite boasting a wheelbase that's longer than the car it replaces, we're pleased to see that Mazda has kept its exterior size in check - it's actually shorter overall than the last-gen model - while also reducing weight by about 200 pounds. That's bound to be good for the new 3's dynamic properties.
According to Edmunds, Mazda engineers are pressuring the company to create more rear-wheel-drive models, in an effort to better differentiate itself from its rivals. This push is reportedly coming from middle and senior engineers within the company, and these folks at Mazda believe this rear-drive strategy would allow the automaker to produce more distinctive, fun to drive cars. Mazda discontinued the rear-drive (and rotary-engined) RX-8 a few years ago, leaving the MX-5 Miata as the company's only RWD offering.
As enthusiasts, we're fully on board with Mazda offering more rear-drive cars, but unsurprisingly, the company's top management isn't exactly keen on the idea - and with good reason. First and foremost, the cost associated with redesigning fresh architecture for new models would be very high, and considering the fact that Mazda hasn't exactly been raking in the dough lately, an expensive new venture like this doesn't make a whole lot of sense. What's more, Mazda's latest front-drive models - the Mazda3, Mazda6 and CX-5 - have been very well-received, and are helping the company gain sales momentum.
But that doesn't mean there aren't other options. Edmunds reminds us that Mazda is already partnering with Alfa Romeo on the next-generation Miata, and if this collaboration is successful, perhaps the relationship could bear additional fruit. After all, Alfa Romeo is said to be working on returning to its rear-wheel-drive roots, so Mazda's engineers might be able to make a case for more RWD goodness after all.