Mazda Engineers Push for a Return to Rear-Wheel Drive


  • 2009 Mazda RX-8 Picture

    2009 Mazda RX-8 Picture

    Some Mazda engineers are pushing for a return to rear-wheel-drive models, like the 2009 Mazda RX-8. | October 01, 2013

Just the Facts:
  • Mazda engineers are lobbying for revival of rear-wheel-drive models, saying that the strategy would help the Japanese automaker to better differentiate itself against its rivals, Edmunds has learned.
  • Top management is said to be resistant to the idea, citing the high cost of redesigning its mainstream models.
  • Mazda might find a partner in Alfa Romeo as it rethinks rear-wheel drive.

LONDON — Mazda engineers are lobbying for revival of rear-wheel-drive models, saying that the strategy would help the Japanese automaker to better differentiate itself against its rivals, Edmunds has learned.

The push is coming from many of Mazda's senior and middle-ranking engineers. Products like the rear-wheel-drive Mazda RX-8 have been discontinued as the automaker focuses on front-wheel drive models. Mainstream models such as the 2014 Mazda 6 are front-wheel-drive.

Insiders at the company believe that this rear-wheel-drive strategy would produce more distinctive cars that are more fun to drive and would align more closely with the visual and dynamic character of the company's successful MX-5 Miata and RX series.

However, Mazda's top management is said to be resistant to the idea because of the cost of designing fresh architectures for its mainstream models.

Mazda might also find a partner in Alfa Romeo as it mulls the benefits of rear-wheel drive. The two are already collaborating on sports cars, including a new Alfa Spider to be derived from the next-generation MX-5.

The Italian brand is also said to be investigating rear-wheel drive for some of its mainstream models. However, there's no evidence yet of a deepening collaboration, and given the success that Mazda is enjoying with its current, predominantly front-drive range, a major switch to rear-drive looks unlikely in the immediate future.

Edmunds says: Rear-wheel drive could give Mazda the distinctiveness it needs to be successful and profitable as a relatively small player.

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