Mazda Finally Bringing Electrified and Diesel Cars to US

Mazda’s long-delayed plan to bring fuel efficient, green cars to the U.S. beyond gasoline-powered models with Skyactiv is finally seeing the light of day.

After four years of postponements, Mazda Motor Corp. announced will be bringing diesel vehicles to the U.S., which will be followed by an all-electric vehicle launch in 2019 and a plug-in hybrid in 2021 or later.

Mazda debuted the next generation Mazda CX-5 crossover yesterday at the L.A. Auto Show. A diesel version with a revamped 2.2-liter Skyactiv-D clean diesel engine will roll out in the second half of 2017, the company said.

That diesel car is being tweaked to meet more stringent U.S. regulations for nitrogen oxide emissions, said CEO Masamichi Kogai. He said that his company has found a breakthrough in balancing driving performance with clean emissions. Resolving that challenge had held the company back ever since announcing Skyactiv-D diesel engines in 2010 for what was originally to be a 2012 U.S. launch.

The EPA has yet to release an official fuel economy rating for the CX-5 diesel. Mazda said it would be among the most fuel efficient rides in the small crossover segment, including hybrids.

Kogai did not offer details on which vehicle segments the battery electric or plug-in hybrid might fall under. Mazda may work with partner Toyota Motor Corp. to develop some of the EV technologies, Kogai said.

Mazda is targeting a 2019 debut of the battery electric vehicle specifically to meet California’s zero-emissions vehicle mandate, which have been adopted by several other states. Kogai said it would be a global vehicle, and not just for California.

Mazda’s 2010 clean diesel plan was delayed three times over the past four years. Putting diesel into the Skyactiv engine offerings was originally envisioned as Mazda’s cost-effective, fuel efficient answer to the expensive hybrid drivetrains being developed by much larger competitors.

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Mazda’s diesel plan was stymied from the very beginning by more stringent U.S. emission rules. Skyactiv-D grew in popularity in other markets, such as Japan and Europe, but Mazda said it was unable to deliver the same level of torque and acceleration while meeting U.S. regulations long before the Volkswagen diesel emissions reporting crisis started.

Diesels now represent eight percent of the Japanese market, and Mazda claims about half that volume, Kogai said. Mazda now offers diesel versions of its Mazda2 subcompact, Mazda3 small car, Mazda6 sedan and CX-3 compact crossover, in addition to the CX-5.

Diesels account for about 36 percent of Mazda’s total sale in Japan. Last year, Mazda sold 103,771 diesel vehicles in Japan and 182,758 worldwide.

The CX-5 is Mazda’s best-selling vehicle, accounting for a quarter of the company’s global sales. Mazda sees the CX-5 crossover utility vehicle as the best way to break into the U.S. market with its diesel variation.

“The CX-5 is a very important vehicle,” Kogai said. “Now we will increase our competitiveness with the full model change.”

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