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Mazda staying off of electric bandwagon

by Andrew Ganz

Japanese automaker Mazda says it is bucking the seemingly ubiquitous trend of introducing a vehicle powered - at least in part - by an electric motor. The automaker says that electric powertrains, at least in their current configurations, run contrary to the sporting manifesto the company espouses in its design, engineering and marketing.

"We will not go somewhere unless it's 'zoom-zoom,'" Jim O'Sullivan, president of Mazda North America, told the Detroit News.

Mazda has stuck with conventional gasoline powertrains in North America and globally, it offers diesel and, at least in Japan, hydrogen power.

The automaker does say that it plans a 30 percent reduction in fuel economy across the board by 2015 through increased engine efficiency, six-speed transmissions and reduced weight.

The automaker's upcoming, redesigned Mazda3 won't be as frugal as its class leaders, however. It offers improved fuel economy for its base engine, but the larger, optional 2.5-liter four-cylinder actually sees a small decrease in efficiency around town compared to the outgoing 2.3-liter.

Mazda is committed to hydrogen development, however. A bi-fuel rotary engine is already under development in Japan and limited examples are on the road. Japan's hydrogen infrastructure is more conducive to real-world use than that in the United States.

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