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Mazda working on rotary engine, upmarket push

Mazda hopes to move into a premium segment where a rotary sports car may make more sense.

Mazda is reportedly working on a rotary-powered sports car as it makes plans to move upmarket.

At J.D. Power Automotive Marketing Roundtable in Las Vegas, Mazda North American Operations's vice president of marketing Russell Wager was asked about the RX-Vision Concept by Wards Auto. "That car wouldn't come to market unless it has a rotary engine,” Wards said. "That's what they are working on." The "they" in that quote is presumably Mazda's R&D arm, which is famously secretive, even within the company itself.

At the same time, Mazda is also trying to move upmarket. "We're not trying to go luxury; that's not in our cards," Wager said, "But we are trying to make vehicles people will pay more for." Wager cited figures saying that Mazda is drawing more college-educated buyers.

Referring to a completely revamped lineup since separating from Ford in 2008, Wager told Wards that "Our entire lineup has changed in three years, and our cars drive so much better now. It's a question of getting (potential buyers) in them to experience them." Freed from the platform sharing with Ford products, Mazda has been able to engineer dynamically handling cars with sharp styling called "Kodo."

In the late 80s, Mazda did experiment with a luxury brand, Amati, but it was decided that the returns would not make it worthwhile to pursue. Now, rather than spread themselves too thin, Mazda wants to take the entire brand upmarket and position itself as the premium alternative to brands like Toyota and Nissan.

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