Carmaker focuses on cutting emissions with eye to emerging markets, writes David Linklater

Masahiro Moro has a fantastic job title: executive officer and assistant to the officer with oversight of global sales domain and in charge of promoting customer tsunagari innovation; in charge of global sales and marketing.

What's most relevant for New Zealand is that Moro-san, who visited Auckland this week, is global head of sales for the Mazda brand.

It was his first visit to New Zealand - according to Mazda New Zealand managing director Andrew Clearwater, Moro-san was here to play golf (first) and speak to motoring media at the CX-9 launch (second). No doubt there was a bit more to it than that.

Moro-san spoke to local media about the thinking behind Mazda's SkyActiv technology: "We all know the demand that is coming from emerging markets in the next 10 years. We took this into consideration and decided that to tackle environmental issues, the solutions must be affordable to really have an impact. We decided to work on the efficiency of the internal combustion engine first, rather than new and costly technology.


"We challenged ourselves to overhaul the core technologies including engine, transmission, body and chassis, all at once. This also required innovation for our development and manufacturing processes."

SkyActiv cars will rapidly come to dominate the Mazda model range: "This technology will contribute 30 per cent of global sales by the end of this year, and 80 per cent by the end of 2015, when it is our goal to achieve 1.7 million units [from 1.27 million in 2011]."

Moro-san was tight-lipped about what those future models will be, or how many.

Fortunately, Takashi Yamanouchi, president and chief executive officer of Mazda Motor Corporation, was less guarded during a media dinner at October's Sydney Motor Show. He confirmed that the company would launch six more SkyActiv models in the next four years - in addition to CX-5 and Mazda6.

The mind boggles. One will be the next Mazda MX-5, to be shared with Alfa Romeo as a joint venture. A new CX-9 is likely in that period. As is a CX-3, to fill increasing demand for small crossovers. Then the next Mazda2. But that leaves two more.

SkyActiv is a good base for future production because the ethos of maximum efficiency applies not just to the final product but also development and production processes, says Moro-san: "Cost-competitiveness is very important to business. We ship CX-5 from Japan to more than 100 countries and the exchange rate is 77 yen to the American dollar. But we are still making profit with CX-5."

Nonetheless, expanding its production footprint further outside Japan is also a priority. "We must accelerate our entrance into emerging markets and we are making good progress with this. We have just established a new plant in Russia for CX-5. We have enhanced production in Malaysia and Thailand. Construction of a new plant in Mexico is well under way."