TOKYO—Mazda, a latecomer to the electrification race, wants to begin catching up with a new lineup of plug-ins, mild hybrids, range-extenders and full electrics.
The auto maker says a blitz of low-emissions vehicles will begin arriving in 2022, with a new platform for large vehicles and new dedicated platform for electric vehicles.
The shift is part of the Hiroshima, Japan, auto maker's push to offer some form of electrification in all nameplates by 2030. Mazda fleshed out its timeline, saying it will join other automakers, such as Nissan Motor Co., in targeting carbon neutrality throughout its supply chain by 2050.
Mazda announced that carbon goal last week while reporting a threefold increase in operating profit in its fiscal third quarter ended Dec. 31, despite a 6 percent slide in global sales.
Mazda launched its first mass-produced EV, the MX-30 compact crossover, last year in Europe and this year in Japan. The MX-30 is also offered as a mild hybrid in Japan.
Mazda will next introduce another gasoline-electric hybrid variant of the MX-30 that uses a rotary engine as a range extender. The rotary version targets the U.S. and Europe. Mazda has not disclosed when the rotary range-extender will reach those regions, but a spokesman said the company will start rolling out the technology globally in the first half of 2022.
Also in 2022, Mazda plans to introduce a plug-in hybrid based on the new platform for large vehicles. That platform is still in development and is expected to additionally underpin a new vehicle slated for production at the factory Mazda will open with Toyota in Alabama.
Meanwhile, Mazda is developing a separate platform exclusively for next-generation EVs. That will be rolled out sometime from the fiscal year ending March 31, 2023, to early 2026.
Mazda calls the scattershot approach its "multisolution" strategy for electrification. The goal is to offer different forms of electrification that meet different demands in different markets.
"We will offer a lineup of electrified vehicles to cater to customer needs and their diversity," CEO Akira Marumoto said at last week's earnings announcement. "It is critically important to offer a range of electrified products that customers prefer to choose."
To deliver the surge in electrified offerings, Mazda already has overhauled the production line at its Ujina 1 plant in Hiroshima to accommodate mixed production of EVs such as the MX-30. Mazda has long prided itself on its capacity for flexible output from a single line.
Despite the shift, Mazda's expectations for its electrified offerings are modest, at least for now. It has sold only 13,000 MX-30s in Europe and Japan so far, including the mild-hybrid version. And it expects the full EV variant to sell only 500 units a year in Japan.
But Mazda's business remains relatively resilient despite the COVID-19 pandemic. Operating profit surged to $202.4 million in the October-December period from $63 million. Global retail sales declined 6 percent to 352,000 in the quarter.
In the U.S., Mazda's biggest and most important market, the brand was one of the only makes to notch a sales increase in a tumultuous 2020. Sales rose 0.2 percent.
Mazda said its bottom line was boosted by higher pricing power in the U.S. In 2020, the average transaction price reached $30,000, from $26,000 five years earlier, Executive Officer Ryuichi Umeshita said. Meanwhile, the count of renovated next-generation dealerships hit 174, closing in on the company's target of 300 and helping lift the brand image.
Naoto Okamura contributed to this report.