OVER 21,000 VEHICLES SOLD IN SPAIN 2018

Spain 2020 | INDUSTRY | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to José Maria Terol, CEO of Mazda, on 20 years in Spain, driverless cars, and government regulation.

Tell us about Mazda's evolution in Spain?

We started as a sales company in 2000. Previously, there was an importer selling Mazda cars in Spain. We have had a successful story here, with continuous growth from 2000 to 2008, hitting sales records year over year. Then, the recession hit the economy in 2008 and we were very impacted, as we import all the cars from Japan. Back then, the yen became quite strong so importing vehicles became more expensive. Then, additionally, we suffered the impact from the tsunami and earthquake in Japan in 2011. That affected our production. Further down the line, the Spanish market began to recovery and the exchange rate was more stable. We went back to reasonable levels. We started a complete renovation of our portfolio with the launch of our new design language, which we call Kodo, and completely new technologies under the umbrella of the Skyactiv technology. This includes the renovation of all our platforms, the transmissions, and it was absolutely huge. Thanks to these initiatives, we were able to come back and in 2018 we sold more than 21,000 vehicles in Spain. That was our year record.

How do you plan to continue maintaining those figures?

There are three pillars, one of them is product. We are just starting again a new renovation of our product with an evolution of the Kodo design language. It also includes a more premium feel and a highly improved level of quality in the materials we use. It is a better designed product, competing at the same level as premium brands. In addition, we plan a complete renovation of our technology. We are launching a revolutionary combustion engine that is a petrol engine, but works as a diesel engine. This means that combustion is produced by the compression and not by the spark.

Does this system reduce CO2 emissions over the car's lifetime?

That is our goal. We want to reduce all the emissions produced from the car itself. But it is important to measure the entire cycle of the car. This is something that will be introduced in most of the markets. Europe is the market for this kind of engine, because Europe has demanding emission policies that require the best technology available in this field. Europe will be the market in which Skyactiv-X will be developed.

Can you tell us what are the main characteristics of the CX-30?

In addition to hybridization and Skyactiv-X, the CX-30 is an SUV that is convenient. SUV sales continue to grow and there is a great opportunity in this field. Also, CX-30 fits well in our offer of SUVs. So that is why it is a great addition. On top of this, the compact SUV sub-segment is growing the fastest worldwide. We will see new entries in the SUV range in the near future.

What role will driverless cars and these systems will have in the future?

All these systems that assist drivers are growing. It is amazing how many technologies are being applied in this field. Mazda has already implemented the co-pilot system, which is a broad system of technologies to assist the driver so that they continue to enjoy driving their cars. The driver has to always remain in command. Automation, also, although it is still some time away from what we are seeking. It will take some time to get to 100% autonomous driving systems. Many of the issues around autonomous driving are ethical, philosophical, and the complex issues raised are far from being resolved, particularly in terms of insurance and responsibility.

What is your opinion on the kind of future regulation in the field?

In Europe, regulations are among the toughest. Chinese and American regulations are much more simple. In Europe, you have many countries, regions, and local governments that change their regulations constantly. That is a huge challenge for us. Therefore, car manufacturers are requesting governments try to harmonize regulations that are produced in Europe to offer a more manageable environment for companies.

What would you demand from public administration to become more efficient?

I would like them to take a more practical approach regarding emissions regulation. Usually, the regulations they pass have the opposite effect. Today, if we could manage to replace 25% of the oldest cars in Spain, we would reduce emissions by 75%. This means that we have old cars with extremely high-level of emissions. Hence, it is mandatory to replace those cars. Besides, there are still many barriers for pure electric vehicles. Customers are not willing to buy those cars in significant quantities. The most practical way to reduce emissions would be to replace old cars with new ones.

What are your goals for 2020?

It is an interesting year. Basically, it is a year in which we will have a new regulation from the EU that demands all manufacturers achieve far lower emissions in cars. So that is big. If you do not get to that kind of level, you will pay high fines. So, we require a complete re-thinking of our portfolio and sales mix.