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The surprising virtue of impatience at Mazda

Mitsuru Wakiie (left) and Susuru Niinai with the new Mazda 6.


WHOEVER said that the best things in life are worth waiting for forgot to tell Mazda's engineers.

"If new technologies or a new brand expression become ready to introduce into a product, we basically don't care about the timing," said Mitsuru Wakiie, the engineer in charge of developing the new Mazda 6. "At Mazda R&D, we want to include or implement the latest technology as early as possible, and keep the product always in the latest condition in the showroom."

That explains how the Mazda 6 received a minor facelift last year, then suddenly got a major revamp this year. Car makers usually launch a new model, wait three or four years to give it a single update, and then roll out a replacement another three or four years later.

Then again, the 6 is something of a special case. "In general, the Mazda 6 is our flagship. This car needs to embody the Mazda brand," said Mr Wakiie. Furthermore, as a sedan it has more potential to deliver a sporty drive than a sport utility vehicle (SUV), he explained, so it is a natural candidate for new technology. "The Mazda 6 always has to lead in dynamic performance, as the best of Mazda's products," he told BT.

That is why it received major suspension updates, rides on tailor-made tyres and even has thicker sheetmetal in places where Mazda engineers realised it would be worthwhile to strengthen its body.

"We have been developing a new platform for the next generation of models. Many technologies became available for production, and we kind of stole that technology and put it into this Mazda 6," he said.

"It's not only technology but also design," said Susumu Niinai, the general manager of Mazda's Asean division. "Our design guys set the bar very high, which we call the 'ideal condition', and always try to aim for the ideal condition."

He told BT that Mazda has changed its thinking about how often to update a given car. That explains how some design features from Mazda's Vision Coupe, a concept car from last November's Tokyo motor show, migrated so quickly to the Mazda 6. The intricate front grille is a prime example.

Mr Wakiie accepts that customers might feel peeved if their cars become quickly outdated because Mazda constantly refreshes its lineup, but said that there is a flip side: "If you want to buy a Mazda, it will be the latest."

Anyway, you get the sense that Mazda guys cannot help but tinker. The Mazda 6 has a new cabin, for example. "Yup, almost 100 per cent is new," said Mr Wakiie. Why? "We want to change," he answered.

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