We’re big fans of Mazda’s past rotary engined cars, so anytime it files a new rotary patent, or a rumor surfaces that the RX-9 is finally headed to production, we get excited. We also appreciate that Mazda is still openly committed to trying to find a way to bring the rotary engine back. But we also have to accept that it’s probably not going to happen anytime soon, and one of the biggest reasons is that Mazda can only invest so much money into technology that’s unlikely to be a major profit driver.
Speaking with Australia’s Car Advice, Kiyoshi Fujiwara, Mazda’s head of research and development, said other technologies have to take priority right now. “For surviving, Mazda needs money to spend on autonomous driving technology, co-pilot, and next-gen SkyActiv-D, and hybrid systems and electrifications,” said Fujiwara. “Therefore we need the money.”
But Fujiwara also confirmed that the small Japanese automaker hasn’t given up on the rotary. “We are still working on a rotary engine itself with a limited number of engineers, but we have to get money now and also we have to be positioned to be able to become higher brand image. We can do that [eventually]. We don’t give up,” he told Car Advice.
At this point, though, bringing back a rotary engine is more about brand prestige than anything else. “Rotary is not for getting money. Just before deciding to start again [on] rotary engines, we need money; [then] if we need more brand image, more characteristics, we need rotary vehicles,” said Fujiwara. “Normally European or German brands have very strong characteristics cars; Audi, Mercedes-Benz or BMW, they have these kind of icon models—performance models—to pull up the brand itself. We are now not in this kind of situation.”
To justify adding a halo performance model, Mazda knows it needs to increase its profits. “We have twice had bad experience for rotary engines for our financial situation, therefore we have to carefully consider and carefully decide how to do that. Some of the stakeholders and shareholders cannot allow it at this moment,” he said. But if the company’s financial situation improves, you may actually see Mazda build a rotary-powered performance car. “If we can get more robust business structure, I can explain it, I can get approval. If it’s needed,” Fujiwara said.
So the rotary engine definitely won’t make a return anytime soon. But if we all give Mazda enough of our money, maybe the RX-9 will actually happen.
Mazda RX Vision concept pictured.