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Mazda’s triple treat no flight of fantasy

Threesome: The Ibuki (top), Kusabi and Washu.

Mazda’s latest concept cars are no flight of fantasy, says marketing boss

6 Nov 2003

IF you think the Mazda Ibuki, Kusabi and Washu concept cars are a bit out there you couldn’t be more mistaken, says Mazda sales, marketing and customer services boss Stephen Odell.

"Mazda’s concept cars are not flights of fantasy. They are potential executions of where we think we could go, what can you do with those platforms," he told GoAuto at the Tokyo motor show.

"At Detroit and Geneva next year you will see more vehicles that indicate how we could evolve." Mazda first displayed the Mazda6-based Washu people-mover last January in Detroit, followed it with the assymetric Mazda2-based Kusabi in Frankfurt and completed the triple treat with the Ibuki roadster in Tokyo.

All three cars took the stage in Tokyo, dominating the Mazda display.

Washu is a six-seater with sliding rear side doors and a fully flexible interior, aimed at melding sports sedan with people carrying duties.

Kusabi is a four-seat, two-door coupe with a rakish roofline and extremely tight overhangs.

"The Kusabi is built off the B platform (Mazda2), but you would not know that (by looking at it)," Mr Odell said.

"What it demonstrates is the levels of differentiation you can get from a platform. You are not bound to similar shapes and a similar size car. Kusabi has a diesel engine so you can package all sorts of power trains, not slavishly follow the (donor car).

"Kusabi shows how much flexibility we have in the next couple of years, when you will see the derivatives flow from the platforms."Washu is one of many recent cross-over models.

"Cross-over vehicles are growing, proliferating," said Mazda executive vice-president John Parker.

"Clearly there are opportunities in those areas where we’re not yet exploiting. I’m sure we can derive some products from existing models."But Mr Odell is not so sure cross-overs are driving customers.

"Cars are getting bigger so you could assume that getting bigger is the go, then you look at the white space you just vacated, and say ‘hang on’..."He said simply stretching a current platform may not be the answer customers are seeking.

"Maybe there is a time to look at a slightly bigger vehicle but ask ‘could we execute these in another way?’"Mr Odell points to the 1999 Next Tourer concept.

"That was too early, no-one was talking cross-over then. It shocked people. I don’t think customers buy cross-overs," he said.

"They buy at a price point with an image that goes with the brand. They want more flexibility than ever before, package-wise. If that product ends up as a cross-over, it’s because consumers want it."* Mr Odell also confirmed there is a future for hot-shot Mazda6 and Mazda3 models.

A turbocharged 206kW in-line four-cylinder all-wheel drive Mazda6 concept popped up at the Paris motor show a year ago, yet nothing more has been seen.

"I believe there is a place for Mazdaspeed or MPS, depending on the country," Mr Odell said.

"There is a place for a higher output strategy to start with 6 and then the 3. We don’t want to just show and not give it a go."

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