2011 Mazda2 First Drive
In Japan today, Mazda and Toyota announced a new partnership that should be of keen interest to drivers. Beginning in the summer of 2015, Mazda will build a new Toyota subcompact for the North American market.
The car will be manufactured at Mazda's new plant in Salamanca, Mexico -- a plant that's scheduled for completion by March 2014. According to a Mazda press release, Toyota is "investing an appropriate portion of production equipment costs and development costs related to the Toyota vehicle and also an appropriate portion of costs related to the plant’s production-capacity increase".
The release indicates that the new vehicle will be based on the Mazda2, which is one of two cars -- alongside the Mazda3 -- slated to be built at the plant. But beyond that, there aren't many details.
However, there are some tantalizing clues as to what we might expect:
- Since 2010, Mazda has licensed hybrid technology from Toyota. That overlap doesn't necessarily mean that the new Toyota is a hybrid, but it's intriguing.
- Toyota has said that by the year 2020, every car in its lineup will be a hybrid. Debuting a conventional gas-powered vehicle just five years before that self-imposed deadline would seem odd -- not impossible, but odd.
- Production volume for the new Toyota is pegged at 50,000 units per year -- not nearly as many as the 140,000 Mazda2 and Mazda3 units to be built at the new plant, but respectable. That implies that this probably won't be an electric car, since the combined total of electric and plug-in sales will be lucky to break the 40,000 mark this year. However...
- ...over the next three years, the price of hybrid and EV technology could plummet, making those vehicles far more affordable and attractive to consumers.
Assuming Mazda begins production in mid-2015 as planned, the new Toyota should debut as a 2016 model.
Have any hunches? Hopes? Fears? Share them in the comments below.