Find or Sell any Parts for Your Vehicle in USA

Mazda outlines weight-loss program

Thu, 12 Nov 2009

Mazda Motor Corp. will reduce its vehicle weights by at least 220 pounds beginning in 2011, with a combination of lighter-weight materials, smaller vehicle footprints and new engineering processes, a top executive says.

The typical Mazda vehicle has gained 80 pounds with each successive redesign, “mostly in larger tires and wheels, and safety equipment,” said Robert Davis, senior vice president of product development and quality for Mazda North American Operations.

For example, the curb weight of a base 2003 Protege sedan was 2,634 pounds. The Protege evolved into the redesigned, 2,696-pound Mazda3 sedan in 2004 and ballooned into the 2010 Mazda3, which weighs 2,868 pounds.

Reducing a vehicle's curb weight by 220 pounds will improve its fuel economy 3 to 5 percent, Davis said in a speech here to the Motor Press Guild.

But there are sacrifices with every measure taken. And the conflict between increased fuel economy and safety regulations -- while maintaining Mazda's zoom-zoom ethos -- have engineers struggling to satisfy three masters.

Using lighter materials, such as aluminum or high-strength steel, is more expensive than traditional steel. Creating a more ideal body structure requires a long lead time for engineers. And new processes, such as finding a way to bond aluminum to steel, require technological breakthroughs.

Said Davis: “Carbon-fiber roofs and hoods are great for a BMW M5, but they are not viable in our cost structure.”

Davis said Mazda is looking to reverse the trend of “dimensional creep,” in which each successive redesign of a vehicle grows incrementally. He said next-generation Mazda products may lose as much as three inches in overall length -- mostly because of smaller, more efficient engines -- while smarter interior packaging will leave most drivers unaware that the interior has shrunk only marginally.

By Mark Rechtin- Automotive News