After much hype (and 1 van), Mazda rethinks design plan

Automotive News reports on Mazda's new design direction.

Mazda Nagare concept
Nagare, the Japanese word for "flow," has been the styling basis for multiple Mazda concept cars unveiled since 2006. Mazda

After four years of hyping its curvy, fluid Nagare styling philosophy--but developing only one production vehicle with the look--Mazda has changed design course.

Now the Japanese carmaker wants to go with a simpler, more upscale style. So the design language seen in the Shinari concept car being unveiled at the Los Angeles auto show this week represents Mazda's future.

The Shinari look will begin to appear on production vehicles within two years, says Derek Jenkins, design director for Mazda North American Operations.

What happened to Nagare? It went out with global design director Laurens Van den Acker, who developed the look but moved to Renault last year after a three year stint with Mazda.

Nagare, the Japanese word for "flow," has been the styling basis for multiple Mazda concept cars unveiled since 2006.

The redesigned 2012 Mazda5 minivan that goes on sale in January is the first production vehicle to incorporate the Nagare design ideas. It will also be the last, Jenkins says.

Van den Acker was replaced by Ikuo Maeda, who as a designer for Mazda in Hiroshima penned the silhouette of the Mazda RX-8 sports car.

Jenkins, 40, oversees Mazda's North American design studio, about an hour south of Los Angeles in Irvine, Calif. The studio is one of Mazda's three global design centers. The U.S. studio competes with counterparts near Frankfurt, Germany, and in Hiroshima, Japan, to come up with exterior and interior designs for production vehicles.

For example, prior to Jenkins' arrival at Mazda in 2009 the U.S. studio had a hand in designing the current Mazda3 and Mazda6 sedans, as well as the CX-7 and CX-9 crossovers.


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