8 January 2015
For Mazda Motors' experienced programme manager, Michio Tomiyama, working on the all-new compact CX-3 SUV wasn't a simple task.
Although he had been in charge of the recently launched Mazda2 that's set for New Zealand release next month, the CX-3 threw up a few challenges.
The 51-year-old had been with the Mazda Motor Corporation since 1986, but with this new project he wasn't given specifications from the company's management on what they wanted as far as the look and build of the crossover.
Then he had to cope with engineers with set ideas on what a compact SUV should have.
But three years on, and with the result of his project sitting behind us during our interview at its Los Angeles motor show debut last week, Tomiyama is a happy man.
When someone asks what a programme manager does, is the answer 'everything'?
The most important thing for the programme manager to do is to keep the timing ... to do all the things necessary to keep on the timing for when the mass production starts.
Since Mazda has excellent engineers I have no worries about what engineer work is going to be done.
What were the essential elements for CX-3?
Rather than mention the specific parts, I would say the most important element for this car was the styling.
The most important thing was to materialise the design Yoichi Matsuda created, a mass production model.
How hard to design a new vehicle in a new segment?
It was very difficult for us to come up with the right concept for us for a crossover vehicle because for us it was the first compact crossover vehicle. It was very difficult for us to decide who is the target customer for this concept.
I didn't get any of those specific things from the management. All the instructions I got from the management was to develop the product from scratch.
The CX-3 borrows the Kodo design language of the Mazda2 and Mazda3 but adds a black rear pillar to elongate the design.
How did you start with no instructions from management?
I confirmed that it was a new model positioned in a new line-up for Mazda. I confirmed it wasn't going to be a bigger version of Mazda2 and not going to be a smaller version of CX-5.
Because if you think like that then you're getting the customers out of a very small market, but what we wanted to do was entice a wider variety of customers, new customers especially.
We wanted to entice young couples and young families to this vehicle.
We also wanted to entice those people with a progressive mindset, who are curious about new things and become interested in this car.
We just wanted to expand the scope of Mazda customers by having those customers into our lineup.
We had this slogan, "we are going to set up standard for a new era".
How important is off-road ability for this vehicle?
It's off-road ability in a day-to-day driving situation. We didn't assume this vehicle could cross rivers. We would have to have high ground clearance - and we couldn't get that stylish design.
Did you have to break up many fights between engineer and design?
Yes I did! Since this is a new project, we decided not to get hung up on conventional thinking, but still some engineers had this fixed notion, "this size of vehicle, this shape of vehicle, off-road this and that".
With the ground clearance, some engineers said it was too low and we had this debate about how much guarantee we were going to give about where this vehicle could be driven.
We had to guarantee that this could drive on normal roads. And there where other engineers who said, without a roof rail they don't think this is a crossover.
I asked the engineer, "what purpose of the roof rail is necessary?".
Even without the roof rail we can put a carrier on the roof. So if we can put a carrier on the roof that is fine enough. Without the roof rail it looks so stylish.