A statement by a Mazda exec has left many hopefuls in doubt about their rear-wheel-drive, inline-six sedan. In fact, it has caused many outlets to proclaimed that the car is definitively dead, or just a rumor that never had any any legs to begin with. However, if you really break down the statement it doesn’t seem so conclusive.
First, let’s look at the statement itself. Published in a print edition of the UK’s Autocar magazine and picked up by Carbuzz, Mazda Europe’s head of engineering and development Joachim Kunz had this to say about the car:
It would be very nice… to have the FR concept and six-cylinder engine for a Mazda 6 successor or a large sports coupe… We would like to have it, but at this point in time, it’s most important to sell SUVs… This SUV trend is continuing, and even more for Mazda. It’s what’s selling best.
The statement could be interpreted in a number of ways. Sure, he could be saying that the car, which we’re tentatively calling the FR6, is indeed dead. But he also could be saying that SUVs are a priority. He also could be saying that a six-cylinder version is dead for, say, the European market.
It’s known that Mazda has been working on a large platform chassis that would underpin the FR6 and SUVs like the European market CX-60, the latter of which was released just a couple of weeks ago. Down the road, we in the States are expected to get larger versions called the CX-70 and CX-90.
We first caught wind of the FR6 platform five or six years ago, in the days before companies like Ford and GM announced they were killing off almost all their compacts and sedans to focus on SUVs. It was described to us as a sedan FR platform with a straight-six. Then we learned that the platform would be used as a basis for SUV models. This was very much in line with prevailing carmaking philosophies at the time in which sedans were still the starting point and the crossovers were considered evolutions based upon that primary form. Think Infiniti G35 spawning the EX and FX (and even the Z).
In early 2019 we revisited this topic with our source and were told that the sedan might be postponed in order to come to market with the SUVs first. At that point Mazda was in the red, losing money fast, and needed to do whatever it could just to stay afloat. It made sense to prioritize the SUVs, even if it was a little disappointing. Never did they say sedan was dead. As far as we know, that flip in priorities — fast-tracking the SUVs on the FR platform ahead of the sedan — was never publicized, so Kunz could be describing exactly that.
Still, three years is a long time. We don’t think Mazda saw just how quickly the market would shift toward SUVs (or EVs, for that matter), so Kunz could have very well been announcing the death of the FR6. Even if he wasn’t, Mazda continues to be a tiny company that is spread pretty thin on resources. Let’s consider the fact that by the time the CX-70 and CX-90 have launched, which could be a year from now or more, the sedan market could be completely dried up.
We think Mazda would still be wise to bring the FR6 to market, especially if they truly want to move upmarket as they say they do. A sedan (or coupe) bestows an air of grandeur to a marque. Something that a majority-crossover lineup just can’t replicate. Also, selfishly, we want to buy one. We don’t know what is happening in the halls of Hiroshima, but it’s like in the movies — if you don’t see the body we’re not counting it dead yet. A Mazda representative could come out tomorrow and definitively say, “We are no longer making a FR sedan.” Then we’ll have our corpse, but until then we can keep a small glimmer of hope alive.
I’ve seen auto news reports where Mazda is moving forward in developing its IL6 engine. And
IMO since they appear to be aligning themselves with Toyota I suspect the next Supra will
have a Mazda heart
Mazda seems to always have the worst timing. They perfected the rotary for mass production back in the ‘70s just when the world no longer had use for a gas guzzling engine, however novel. More recently, they kept developing the still born diesel just as Dieselgate caused most car mfrs to kill off that technology. We now have Mazda ready to offer a new straight 6 in an FR platform as the world turns to EVs with AWD. They need a product planning dept that’s a match for its very capable engineering team.
Could not have said it any better. Same goes for their decision to launch Amati in the 90’s just when the bubble popped. The list goes on…
I also agree. How such a great engineering company can make so many mistimed steps with great ideas is a mystery.
What they really need is a driving public that actually, you know, likes to drive.
Sadly that is not the case. Most people barely know which end of the car to put the fuel in. and that’s a sad fact. They would rather play with their onboard “infotainment” system than experience the satisfaction of a well timed heel and toe downshift or enjoy the tactile sensations of a really communicative steering/suspension system.
If the majority of people really liked to drive, the SUV never would have become a thing.
That’s a good point. Their innovations are great, but the timing is unfortunately all wrong. At least to the masses. For us true-to-heart drivers, it’s great that there are still folks who care about us, but sadly we’re not the ones who bring in the profit. I read the article and was a bit disappointed that yet another Mazda project with good intentions was getting axed.
If Mazda makes a RWD i-6 car, I am not sure the “6” would be the appropriate name; more like “9” would be something to badge it with.
Since Mazda has a relationship with Stellantis, it would be interesting to see if they could sell this as a new Chrysler 300/Lancia Thema.
On that note, could you consider the Fiat 124 Spyder as a Mazda with a Fiat motor? Just change the badges. and I still think it’s a better-looking MX-5.
Their innovations are great, but the timing is unfortunately all wrong. At least to the masses. For us true-to-heart drivers, it’s great that there are still folks who care about us, but sadly we’re not the ones who bring in the profit. I read the article and was a bit disappointed that yet another Mazda project with good intentions was getting axed.