Mazda’s efforts to shift upmarket have been critically successful. But commercially they are, well, less than ideal. Mind you, in 2020 “less than ideal” seems to be the baseline for practically every automaker, so we won’t knock the company for that. What we will knock them for, however, is leaving Mazdaspeed behind.
A spokesman for the Japanese automaker confirmed to reporters during a briefing that Mazdaspeed — once the company’s performance division — is really, truly, honestly dead, Roadshow reports:
According to comments from a Mazda spokesperson made during a question and answer session with media, the automaker is ready to leave Mazdaspeed in the past. While the door isn’t completely shut on bringing the performance cars back in the mix, it certainly sounds like they’re never coming back. Mazdaspeed3, Mazdaspeed6 and Mazdaspeed Miata owners, pour one out, and perhaps keep your future classics.
Of course, anyone who has been paying attention knows that Mazdaspeed hasn’t really shown a pulse since the early part of the previous decade, but for those clinging to the last flickering flame of hope, it’s probably time to pack up your things and move on.
The problem, apparently, is that Mazda management doesn’t feel the Mazdaspeed brand meshes with the automaker’s “focus on becoming more mature and upscale,” Roadshow reported. This is, of course, not the first time we’ve heard Mazda toe this line. Every time I read it, though, I wish no excuse had been given at all.
Surely the most premium luxury nameplates of the world don’t have high-performance divisions. M and AMG, it turns out, were collective fabrications of the mind, like that Sinbad Shazam movie that never existed. You can’t go fast and promote an air of opulence! It can’t be done!
If there’s a silver lining to all of this, I suppose it’s that Mazda is making absolutely gorgeous cars that are indeed very nice to drive, are comfortable and well-built. The Mazda 3 is maybe the only compact that still stops me in my tracks even after a year on the market, whether in sedan or hatch guise. The company carved out a nice little niche for itself, a bit above some less-expensive Japanese rivals but below the luxury mainstays. That’s an impressive feat. It’s almost like Volkswagen before Volkswagen went soft.
Nevertheless, this news is disappointing. Yes, the Mazda 3 Turbo is coming, and with 250 HP on tap to accompany its devilish good looks, it could present a decent stand-in for whatever a Mazdaspeed-badged variant would have been. But even as the automaker is desperately trying to convince us maturity and enthusiasm don’t mix, it’s also teasing us with what-ifs like the RX-Vision concept. And I, for one, won’t stand for that kind of side talk.