Technically, the Mazda concept vehicle that will be unveiled in New York, this week, is staging its North American, rather than global debut. Known as the Takerei, it was first shown at the Tokyo Motor Show, last autumn. But Mazda had little to say about the prototype back then, except to note the name – in Japanese – means “male.”
The maker is revealing a bit more as it prepares for the NYIAS unveiling – although it’s still keeping a few secrets. Most significantly, it describes Takerei as “a vehicle of mid-size sedan proportions.” And considering that Mazda is preparing to update its aging Mazda6 model, it seems reasonably likely that the concept will soon reappear in production trim – or at least heavily influence the upcoming Mazda6 replacement.
Meanwhile, the other significant detail is that the Takerei concept is powered by Mazda’s new SkyActiv-D diesel powertrain.
SkyActiv is the name Mazda has chosen for a suite of high-mileage technologies. The first model to make full use of the concept is the new CX-5 crossover. Its gasoline engine uses an unusually high 13:1 compression ratio and its transmission was designed to maximize efficiency. The body was engineered to reduce weight while improving stiffness and even the most minor details, such as the engine’s water pump were re-engineered to increase mileage.
While Japanese makers have traditionally steered clear of diesel power, at least for the States, Mazda has developed a SkyActiv oil-burner, as well, a 2.2-liter package it also plans to bring to the U.S.
That’s only part of the technology under the hood of Takeri, which is the third concept to use Mazda’s so-called Kodo design language.
According to a Mazda news release, Takeri also “features the i-stop idling stop system and i-ELOOP, the world’s first capacitor-based regenerative braking system. i-stop restarts in a single engine cycle unlike other stop-start systems, which require two cycles. At less than 0.4 seconds, i-stop achieves the world’s fastest diesel engine restart time. i-ELOOP efficiently converts kinetic energy into electricity during deceleration, which is stored in capacitors and then used to power the vehicle’s electric equipment, reducing engine load and improving fuel economy by as much as 10 percent.”
The maker concludes that elements of Takeri “could undoubtedly make their way into a future production model.”
Mazda clearly needs a stand-out product. While the maker is doing reasonably well in the resurgent U.S. market it is struggling globally and expected to post a $1.2 billion loss for the fiscal year that ended March 31. That has forced it to begin what analyst George Peterson, of AutoPacific, Inc., anticipates will be “substantial” cuts in its 701-man U.S. workforce.
Part of the problem is the lopsided dollar/yen exchange rate, but the situation was complicated by former partner Ford’s decision to pull back sharply from its decades-old alliance with Mazda. Mazda, meanwhile, is pulling out of the quarter century-old manufacturing joint venture with Ford, in suburban Detroit, where it had produced the outgoing Mazda6. The replacement will be built in Japan.
While the Japanese maker now has more freedom to go its own way it also leaves it struggling for the resources needed to compete with larger global and Japanese rivals.
Mazda CEO Takashi Yamanouchi recently revealed plans to raise as much as 150 billion yen through a new stock sale needed to replenish its coffers. Meanwhile, he has confirmed the maker’s goal of lining up a new alliance partner, possibly by dangling the new SkyActiv technology as bait.