Discussing a new generation of Zoom Zoom with Mazda SVP Robert Davis
Welcome back to the Road Show stage live on the show floor at the Detroit Auto Show.
I'm Tim Stevens, he's Brian Cooley, and joining us now is Robert Davis, Senior Vice President of Mazda North America.
Robert, thank you for joining us.
You must be pretty excited there at Mazda.
You've got a great new car on the road.
The Miata's one of everyone's favorite cars from last year and it's hard to imagine that not being a pretty big success in the coming summer.
Yeah, I mean it's been a great launch for us.
26 years in the market, almost a million Miata's worldwide, number one roadster in the world, and all-new car, defying convention, lighter, better, stronger, safer.
And a better handling car then we've ever had in the past, so-
We have many Miata fan, boys and girls, on our staff who are very excited, who are going to be fighting for the keys.
We have an ND coming that we're gonna be testing for a while and they're all very excited about [CROSSTALK].
Yeah, they're great, I don't think you're gonna be disappointed.
If you loved the car in the past you'll love the car today.
Now, you play in on of the most competitive sector, I think the most competitive, which is were Mazda 3 slots.
You must have seven viable competitors in that category.
Let's use that as a barometer of what makes Mazda Mazda, cuz that seems to be the toughest market you're in.
What does make a Mazda a Mazda these days?
Well Brian, it's really all about the feel, and whether it's the feel, the way the car drives, or the feel that you interact with the car.
And the way that the car makes you feel.
So it's really driving the car and being part of the car and caring about what the car does with your life.
And it's more than transportation from A to B, because in that segment there's plenty of those.
We can name off a dozen, right?
But it's more about the way you want to be seen, the way you want to interact with your car, the way you want to interact with your car brand, and Mazda 3 was trendsetter in that in 2003 when we launched it and continues to be today.
So, fun to drive is always something you guys promote a lot and Zoom-Zoom was a big part of that for many many years.
You've always had that in your message to us as car buyers.
At a reasonable or an expensive price point, where most of your cars fit, how do you do much different than the other guys?
Well, you do it with a combination of things.
Fun to drive is certainly one element.
But really the connection with the road.
The other is kodo design, designing something that looks different and expresses a lot of emotion.
You know we're people in our business, in our company, that really want to be the car of an extension of yourself.
You're not buying an appliance, it doesn't say Kenmore on it.
You really want it to be something That expresses your own opinion.
And then SKYACTIV Technologies, SKYACTIV technology developed to take safety, fuel economy, performance, all the things.
The environment, all the things that we hold important, and develop it to the next level.
Seven years ago, people in your business were Saying where's your hybrid, Robert?
Where's your hybrid?
Where's your hybrid?
We're the number one fuel economy at EPA three years in a row, with no hybrids.
So it just tells you that there's still a lot of base technology left to develop before you get to electrification, before you go to the fuel cell.
Get the base technology refined as good as you can get it.
And it's interesting, [UNKNOWN] Active is one of those things, to be honest, the name tells you nothing about what it does.
So it's not like it's a hybrid, it's a [UNKNOWN], it's [UNKNOWN] Active.
What is that?
Most users aren't gonna dig into the three or four components that make that efficiency bundle You just get to the bottom line, right, and deliver the MPG.
Well, the funny story about Sky Active, the name Sky Active is a marketing term, came about with the challenge of the engineering challenge.
Sky Active came from us telling the engineering group, hey, listen, the sky is the limit.
Don't hold back on your traditional conflicts within your own mind and set yourself free.
Like the concept that you can't have good fuel economy with good performance.
And we know now with a lot of Mazda cars, even some competitor cars, the C7 Corvette that you can do both.
So don't let yourself be limited.
We certainly seen that with the new NX5, it gotten smaller but still got a great performance.
Is that gonna give you more of a challenge with all of these safety features that people expecting let's say, with airbags and crash, crumpled zones, and all of the sort of things that everyone comes to expect in the car of that size.
Yeah, Tim I mean it's never easy
But we like the Miata, and you can call it Miata, it's okay [CROSSTALK]
bad old habit [LAUGH]
All right, mind you.
So, it's always going to be a challenge.
But, everything in our business is a challenge now.
But, we've got to defy convention, and execute at a different level.
So Miata is safer and lighter it's got less power but the horse power feels higher because it's lighter, it's easier to use, it's better, it's more comfortable, it's got more features and so you've got to continue to challenge yourself over and over again to develop that kind of car, because there's no real bad cars in today's environment.
Interesting point, there aren't a lot of bad, we get that question a lot.
And it harder and harder to say, here's what you should steer away from.
There's almost nothing.
In some ways, it's easier to buy a car these days because you can't go wrong.
In other ways, it's a lot harder because it's harder to find a negative.
But, I know there are, as great as the MX-5 Miata is now, There are a lot of people who want a little more on the power front is that something that we [INAUDIBLE] in the past is that a safe expectation?
No can't talk to you guys about that you know that.
We're all friends.
[CROSSTALK] Talking about future product.
Steve it's cool.
But I think everybody will be pleased with where the Miata is going.
and that's got a good long term future for us.
Let me, I might as well try and get the essence of a car and it's and the company behind it.
The buyers always interested in that.
You've been at Mazda 25 years.
You map almost completely back to the MX5 era as result, you know, people in this industry move around all the time usually.
Why have you stayed at Mazda, and what does that tell us about the cars and the company?
Well I have always been really passionate about cars.
I was in that environment while growing up.
And when I came to Mazda I saw a lot of people, both in the US and in Japan, that shared a lot of the same interests I did.
And built cars with fashion.
And did things that, quite honestly, sometimes didn't make business sense.
If you go back and look at the first Miata, from a business standpoint it didn't make sense.
And they, with passion, they went and executed it anyway.
And then as they dug into the company and saw RX-7, and Cosmo, and different cars, Over the history of the company, it really struck a chord with me.
On a personal basis, Moss does giving me opportunity to do things and see things that I've never imagined.
I'm a finance guy, I run Moss Car indeed and most of design in the US, sales and marketing today, customer service So there's been a lot aspects of Mazda that I see in myself and that's really about being a student and understanding and always being willing to learn about our business, and having that passion everyday to get up and go do it And I think it really comes from Mazda's homebased in Japan, it's in Hiroshima not in Tokyo.
And we obviously know what happened in Hiroshima in 1945.
But the challenging spirit of coming back after that, not letting that get you down, not allowing that to mark your existence But overcoming it and challenging it.
In less than six months Mazda, after the atomic bomb, was building cars again, or trucks, utility trucks.
It's an amazing story about a people in a part of the country that faced incredible odds, and I think that spirit still comes through today.