Contrary to recent rumors claiming that Mazda is considering building a hybrid RX-9 sports car, which would marry a gasoline-fueled rotary engine to an electric-drive system borrowed from Toyota, we can confirm that the company has no plans for such a vehicle. In fact, the very future of the rotary engine at Mazda is in jeopardy.
Production of the Mazda RX-8 is drawing to a close, and given the vehicle’s tiny sales volume—just 291 were sold in the U.S. from January to April of this year—we’re told by a company insider that there wasn’t even a business case for a special “end-of-the-road” edition with unique paint and badging. With the RX-8's passing, Mazda won’t have a vehicle in which to install its current 1.3-liter rotary screamer. (It’s worth noting that new European emissions standards could have been the nail in the coffin for Mazda’s rotary, too, but this is a chicken-and-egg debate.)
We have learned, however, that there is a quiet movement within Mazda to build an RX-7 as a replacement. Such a vehicle would borrow (and, most likely, enlarge) the platform from the next-generation Miata, which should hit the market in a bit less than two years. This project hasn’t received any official green light, though, and we don’t know whether it’s merely on the drawing board or has moved on to skunkworks production.
The passing of the RX-8 is sad, as the vehicle’s chassis and steering are among the best in the business, and we love the distinctiveness of the rotary engine. But it’s hard to argue with the economics of the car business, and a small company like Mazda can hardly afford to build two sports cars on unique platforms in such small numbers. Still, we hope to be able to bring you official confirmation at some point of an MX-5-based RX-7—that day is just not today.
For more on the current RX-8, check out our 2011 Lightning Lap.Tags: Mazda, Mazda RX-7, Mazda RX-8, Rotary Engine |