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Interview with Mazda President Mark Fields
Submitted by SuperUser on Wednesday, January 9, 2002 - 12:00am

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An Interview with Mazda President, Mark Fields

Today I will be interviewing Mark Fields,
president of Mazda Motor Corporation. He has been Representative
Director, President and Chief Executive Officer since December 1999,
repacing James Miller. The questions from today's interview come from
the online rotary community. I posted an email to a large RX-7 list,
and the RX-7 Forum, and received a large stack of emails, many of
which were duplicate questions.



Are there any plans for a Turbo Charger or Super Charger on the
RENESIS that you know of?


Right now, no. Reason for that is, I want to make sure we execute the
RENESIS engine right with out a Turbo Charger. The power that we are
getting out of the RENESIS now is about the same as the last
generation 13b with the twin turbo chargers. We are getting the power
at this point with no turbos

Is the number one concern then, reliability, durability of the
engine


If we at the lingering issues, we have a number of categories. First
was fuel economy, second was reliability, third emissions, fourth oil
consumption. When we decided to do [the rotary] over, I told the
engineering department "you have to fix these issues!"
Because, if not, we are not going to have a compelling story.

Fuel economy has been improved. The engine itself is 30%
lighter. The rotors are lighter, the eccentric shaft, all that. On
the emissions and fuel economy, the car as a whole is lighter. The
way they redesigned the rotary engine, they put the exhaust ports and
intake ports on the side housings. Before there was an overlap in the
chambers, so you would get unburnt hydrocarbons. This did a number of
things. One, didn't let the engine run lean, decreasing fuel economy,
and second the emissions were bad because of the hydrocarbons. They
did a number of other things in terms of the seals around the block
and rotors, some neat things...

So I think they did a good job of constructing this engine. It is
lighter, revs faster, has more power without turbos.



What about the RX-7? Will that be based off the RX-8.

The RX-8 is the new platform, not as a replacement for the RX-7, it is
a different proposition than the RX-7. We haven't decided yet the fate
of the RX-7. We want to execute the RX-8 well, and then we will

determine what to do with the RX-7. We'll see if it is competing with
the existing RX-7, or it makes a new market, and we'll see if we base
the RX-7 off the RX-8.





Looking around at some of the other concepts at the show,
things like the Razor (a small, powerful and affordable sports car) It
seems like there is a need for something like the 1st gen
RX-7, is this something that the RX-7 could be designed as?


Possibly, I have noticed that trend too, it has yet to be decided
where the RX-7 will go.

What about the RENESIS in other cars or even a lower powered
Rotary in sedans, etc.?


As you know in the early 70's, we had rotaries in all of our vehicles,
unfortunately, the company thinks the are doing the right thing, but
at the wrong time. Right now there are no plans for anything like
that. We have to execute the RX-8 right, first. But that doesn't mean,
I won't consider things in the future, but I want to be very
selective. It would a nonconsequential investment in development, like
a front wheel drive system, and more.

What do you think the direct competition for the RX-8 would be,
right now?


Good question. There was a question like that earlier where they
asked "when developing the RX-8, what did you look for in terms
of competition." Really, we didn't look at one competitor, we
looked at what made the RX-7 successful, and looked at 2 door sports
cars, and 4 door sporty sedans. For example we looked at things like
the A4, A6, Altezza,( which is the IS300), the BMW Z3, the Porsche
Boxster.

In terms of marketing, what would they say is in it's
class?

Well, we basically created a new class, so I don't know
what marketing would say.

What is the Audience, or target for this vehicle?

Well, the target is really 2 fold, First is clearly the rotary
enthusiast. World wide since 1978, we sold over 800,000 Rotary Powered
RX-7's. This is a very important market for us. Secondly people who are in the market for a 2 door or 4 door sporty car, that would be open to a unique proposition.

Is the RX-8 worth of the RX succession?

I think it will be partly for the RX-7 2 seat owners who might need
more space, but I also think this will open a whole new area for the
customers. Because, when you look at that car, it doesn't say
baby-boomer, minivan, or practical, but it is a practical 4 seater. The RX-8 is not a replacement for the RX-7, but it will be a great car in its own right.



Within the rotary community, there is a tendency to compare
Mazda with BMW. Do you think that is a problem? Where do you think
Mazda is going in terms of luxury?


I hear all the time that we are becoming the Japanese BMW. I see
thinks in terms of this spectrum from 'value' to 'premium.' Some of
out vehicles are close to premium, but most of them are in the middle,
and there are some that are even below the middle. What we want to do
is move everything up. That doesn't mean they are going to be premium
but it does mean they will be aspirational. The will be different, and
not be all things to all people. We are not going to be creating the
Japanese BMW in price, but maybe in spirit.

About 10 years ago Mazda tried to split off and do a luxury brand, the
Amati. At the time I was working in California for Ford. I used to
commute up the 5 to work, and would pass the Mazda building. One day
there was a 'Amati' sign right across from the Mazda building. I said
"what the heck is Amati?" The 6 months later, the sign was
gone. We won't do anything like that, we will stay focused, and build cars that are Mazda, in the true sence of the word.

Do you think Mazda is returning to its roots of fun to drive
cars?


Yes, it is important for our brand. And we have returned to it. We
like to think every new Mazda has a part of the Miata in them.

What about racing involvement, maybe returning to Le Mans?


Right now, no. But ... I am a firm believer in racing, and what it does
for the brand. To me it is a question of when, not if. Right now we
are putting all our resources in new product development. But when we
are in a better financial situation, the question is when, not if....



What about bringing a third gen back to the US for a limited
run?


It simply is not feasible. I have to say, I love the RX-7, I drive
one in Japan, the Bathurst Type-R. But our estimats show we would only sell 500 or so a month, and the invenstment in reintroducing it, isn't a wise business decision.

What about a 3 rotor RENESIS?

We are just focusing on the 2 rotor for now. There has been some talk
about a 3 rotor, but with the 2 rotor pushing out 250 hp, we are not
looking at the development of a 3 rotor right now.

A number of questions came in about the Protegé MP3, and
Protege5. What kind of programs can we expect with this? MP3
continue,


The intent of the MP3 was "where are we taking this
product." You just don't jump a brand into something it isn't
now. We were getting back to our roots. You will see more MP3 type
approaches to the Protegé in the future. We are going to do a
MP3 type of vehicle, not exactly like the MP3, but with the tuners and
vendors in the future.


What about the Protegé 5, will it get more power?


We are tweaking the engine right now, so we can get the most out of it
with out turbos.

With the MPS or Mazdaspeed program, would there be a program in
place for dealers to put on parts, with warrantees.


The opportunity is there, and the North American team is looking hard
into it.

Mark, from the Rotary Community, I would like to thank you for
taking time out today to answer these questions.


You're welcome.

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