While Mazda has been making waves with rumors of new products with exotic powertrains that have the potential to shake up its sales, the rapid downturn caused by the Coronavirus pandemic has the company searching for some additional cash.
Like nearly all automakers, Mazda is feeling the squeeze from halted production and decreased demand due to the impact of the covid-19 pandemic and the associated lockdown keeping us all inside and out of dealerships.
According to a report from Reuters, Mazda has sought a 300 Billion Yen package of loans, equal to about $2.8 Billion, from a syndicate consisting of several leading Japanese banks. Though the deal is not public yet, Reuters also reports that the banks have already set to agree to extend the terms of the loans before they have even been publicly announced, suggesting that Mazda’s financiers do have confidence that the automaker will be able to weather the storm caused by the pandemic.
To put this all in context, Reuters goes on to explain that Mazda is already saddled with more than $6 Billion in interest-bearing debt, far beyond the company’s current cash reserves and against the backdrop of low sales even before the crisis began.
That puts Mazda on a significantly different footing than competitor Toyota, whose more flexible balance sheet and cash flow allowed it to retain an A+ rating from Fitch Ratings in a report released last month. Toyota, of course, is a much larger company than Mazda, but the two have been working more closely on projects recently. With that in mind, its health is relevant for comparison but also because Mazda may need some more help from its competitor as the burden of this debt wears on.
We’ll know a bit more about Mazda’s financial health come Thursday when the company’s First Quarter earnings report is expected to be released, but in the meantime, it’s worth considering what the company is expecting its post-virus recovery to look like.
Though its heavily hyped Skyactiv-X drivetrain hasn’t made landfall in North America yet, Mazda is still reportedly looking to appeal to customers through launching innovative and uncommon powertrains much as it has in the past.
Rotary power may be coming back to Mazda showrooms in range-extender format in a plug-in hybrid version of the electric MX-30 crossover scheduled to launch shortly. The return of Mazda’s rotary has been a long time coming. Whether the development costs will ultimately be worth it while the company is focused on managing its debt load remains to be seen, however.
Additionally, Mazda is also reportedly working on a straight-six, rear-wheel-drive platform to underpin the next Mazda6, developed in partnership with financially healthier Toyota. That project, part of the brand’s attempt to move upmarket and offer more refined, more exclusive products, also sounds rather ambitious, even with the help of Toyota. It’s pretty far along though and reports that the powertrain is being prepped for a variety of models suggest that the project is too important to be scuttled now.
My hope is that Mazda can hold its nerve and push on with its more exciting projects despite the weight of this additional debt. It may be the case that some of the brand’s more ambitious dreams may be lost as the company works to keep its balance sheet under control, but we’ll have to wait until those numbers come out later this week to know for sure.