SkyActiv-X: Mazda's bright spark
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Kiyoshi Fujiwara is not your usual Japanese car company executive; for a start he’s wearing an Aston Martin Racing cardigan for the media dinner after the tech forum, and his workday car is a 1.5-litre manual red MX-5.
As we walk to the dinner venue in Bad Homburg, north of Frankfurt and just 15 minutes from Mazda Europe’s R&D centre, I pointed out the Aston Martin Racing logo to Fujiwara-san.
“No,” he said, “it’s Aston Mazda Racing” and followed with one of his characteristic laughs.
When asked about his vehicles, he said he liked the convertible as he had a 40km drive from the Hiroshima HQ to his home.
“When work is good, I take the motorway, when it’s bad I drive the mountain road and drive hard around the corners, changing gears,” he says, laughing, demonstrating his driving by pretending to turn a steering wheel wildly.
There’s also a reason why Fujiwara-san often has a media handler with him, as he’s keen
to let trade secrets slip and, as head of R&D, he is privy to a few secrets.
But behind his joviality there is a senior executive who is determined to make Mazda the small car company that could, when compared to big hitters in Japan: Toyota, Honda and Nissan.
While other brands focus on autonomous driving and EVs, Fujiwara-san believes the Mazda customers want the ethos of “zoom-zoom”; driving themselves in a petrol or diesel engine.
When was the decision to create SkyActiv-X?
The SkyActiv was launched in 2006, and in 2012 launched SkyActiv D and G and continued to develop.
We decided two years ago to create SkyActiv-X. It’s hard to say when we decided to create it or not because we are continually developing the idea of the combustion engine.
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The X means crossover in the gasoline engine and the diesel engine.
In 2019 which vehicle will it go into first?
Nice question. Today we can’t say which models we will launch in the SkyActiv-X but today you are driving something in disguise [the current Mazda3].
How long until SkyActiv-X goes all through the range? Will there be more model cycles? Will it come into the range as each model is released or will it happen more quickly than that?
No, we will install the SkyActiv-X in each model at true model launch.
SkyActiv-G and D will be upgraded so these and the X we will offer to the division. These divisions can pick G, D or X but probably (the engineer) will want everything!
So SkyActiv G will continue for a long time alongside X?
Yes, because SkyActiv-X requires a little bit higher cost.
How far along are you, percentage-wise, with the SkyActiv-X?
If I look as head of R&D, then 50-60 per cent but if I look as a customer, then 80 per cent.
What about EVs? In 2019 you will launch your first hybrid and electric vehicles with Mild HEVs and battery-powered EVs, both with and without range extender functionalities.
Unfortunately China, Norway and California, they required us, especially government requires us, to produce or sell zero emission vehicles but this moment the customer doesn’t. The battery life is getting worse and worse.
So if the government didn’t say you need to, you wouldn’t?
"It's hard to say when we decided to create it or not because we are continually developing the idea of the combustion engine."
- Kiyoshi Fujiwara, Mazda Motor Corp.