Mazda is a unique company and has had a lot going for it in recent years. It's given the automotive world some unforgettable legends such as the Miata and RX-7. Being a small company in terms of assets and footprint, Mazda has garnered a loyal customer base by staying true to its driver focused roots and in taking its customers' suggestions seriously.
Just like all other companies, Mazda made its fair share of bad decisions. The relationship with Ford during which Mazda launched some awfully boring cars, steering away from its "Horse And The Rider As One" and "Zoom Zoom" philosophy for a while, shooting for quantity over quality all are just some of the few decisions that even Mazda regrets today.
A company is not defined by its bad phases. It is defined by how it makes a comeback. Luckily for its customers, Mazda has not messed up that bad in recent times. Here is a list of 20 times when it actually did.
20 2009-2015 Rust Problem
Mazda still gets associated with rust problems even though the company has claimed the issues was resolved in vehicles post-2016. Rear wheel arches, taillights, and center mounted brake lamps were the most troubled areas. The problem resulted in massive recalls of Mazda 3 and Mazda 6 models.
This particular problem gave Mazda a bad image that it's still trying to change.
19 2004-2015 Mazda 5 Minivan
Mazda 5 was the mini-minivan of its era. There was no way Mazda could compete with Honda, Toyota and Dodge/Chrysler, which were the sales kings for this category.
Mazda 5 drove well but had poor fuel economy for someone who was looking for a family hauler. Mazda also did not offer some key features such as a back up camera, power sliding doors, and multiple engine options. Bad sales numbers forced Mazda to stop production in 2015.
18 1974-1978 Mazda Rotary Pickup (REPU)
This rotary engine powered pickup truck by Mazda was a bad idea. It lacked the torque that pickup trucks require in order to do things. The power for rotary engine came during high RPMs, which made towing a nightmare. This truck also lacked the reliability of its competition and as a result, customers ended up paying a fortune in maintenance costs.
17 2019 Engine Stall Recall
Mazda recalled 262,000 vehicles from 2016-2019 model year to fix a mechanical malfunction that could cause engines to stall.
According to the NHTSA, Mazda's knowledge of the problem dates back to early 2018 when it began receiving reports of noisy engines and intake valve train failures. This coincidentally happened just when Mazda was launching its 2019 line up of Mazda 3, thus shifting some of the customers to other brands.
16 1992-2002 Mazda RX-7 Fuel Filter
This one is a classic example of bad engineering. In normal cars, to access the fuel filter all that's required is sliding underneath the car and taking the fuel filter off. In the case of a RX-7 though, the fuel filter was hidden between the car body and differential. It took 5 times more time and effort to be replaced.
Clearly, this left a lot of RX-7 customers who like to work on their cars frustrated.
15 2016-2018 Apple Carplay and Android Auto
Mazda has always been a little behind when it comes to technology. Mazda’s current infotainment system is not the greatest and, on top of that, Mazda did not offer Apple CarPlay and Android Auto until model year 2018. This was again a missed opportunity as infotainment interface scores very high in modern customers' decision-making criteria.
14 2009-2013 Melting Dashboards
The dashboard material used in Mazda 3 and Mazda 6 from 2009-2013 could not stand the heat of the Sun, which is unfortunate considering that they sit under it all day long. A sticky dashboard was a nuisance but a reflective dashboard was a safety hazard due to windshield glare.
Mazda had to recall a few vehicles and also had to extend the warranty coverage.
13 Mazda Dealership Experience
Dealerships are the face of the car company. A dealership experience can make or break a car brand. Mazda's new vision to slowly capture a slice of luxury and upscale car segment has not been passed down to its dealerships. The customer base is shifting and so should the salesmanship and approach method on the ground scale.
The cliche sales tactics are still being used at many Mazda dealerships according to jalopnik.com and this is hurting the brand in more ways than one can imagine.
12 2004-2011 Mazda Tribute
The Tribute was another example of bad badge engineering. This rather boring SUV borrowed all the bad bits from Ford Escape such as cheap plastics, bland styling, and below average quality.
The only feature that set it apart from Ford was a supposedly firmer “sporty” suspension. Another bad decision that Mazda made was to continue selling this vehicle for ten long years.
11 Faulty Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS)
Even though this is not a big blunder by Mazda, it’s still one small annoying issue that has crept in all of Mazda’s new vehicles.
The TPMS would light up a sign when it detects less than 35 psi in one of the tires. Due to some sensor or software malfunctioning, the sign has a tendency to stay on even if the pressure is beyond 35 psi. This would cause owners to fill tires beyond recommended pressure, which could be dangerous during high speeds.
10 Killing The Rotary Engine
The Wankel, otherwise known as a Rotary engine, was an engineering feat championed by Mazda itself. The design was simple, had three moving parts compared to forty in the conventional piston cylinder engine, and had an even power distribution.
Mazda did not kill the engine in a real sense, emission standards did. But Mazda, instead of forgetting about this engine altogether, should have refined it even further and use it as a secondary power source in upcoming hybrids and plug-in hybrids.
9 Pulling The Plug On Amati Luxury Brand
Mazda has recently been shifting its focus to the upmarket and entry level luxury car segment. Their material selection has become upscale with its fit and finish starting to rival German luxury car brands.
Now imagine if Mazda continued with their expansion into luxury segment with its Amati brand back in 1991. It could have shared the space with the Acura’s and Infiniti’s of today’s world. Sadly, the expansion plan got axed just 18 months before the release of the first Amati model.
8 Takata Faulty Airbags Recall
Takata Airbag recall is probably the worst recall in the history of automotive industry. These bags could explode after being deployed and could cause injuries and even death.
Even though a small company such as Mazda did not have any direct roll in this recall, they along with other affected brands lost customers' trust as a result. There were no secondary quality or safety checks performed by Mazda to ensure airbag safety.
7 1991 Mazda Navajo
Mazda Navajo was a prime example of badge engineering. Navajo was a rebadged Ford Explorer with a controversial name in reference to Native American Culture.
Ford only allowed the two-door version of Explorer to be marketed as Navajo so as to keep the more popular four door Explorer’s sales safe. All in all, this vehicle was a result of multiple bad decisions.
6 1992-1998 Mazda MX-3
Mazda MX-3 was created to ride the wave created by the Mazda Miata. MX-3 was all show and no go when it came to driving experience and performance.
The interior was bland and the asking price was way too high. It also had one of the world's smallest 6-cylinder engine fitted into a production car that only made 130 horsepower, which is far too little even for a featherlight car like this.
5 1998-2002 Mazda 626
According to Edmunds, the 626 is a bland, bread-and-butter sedan that's not big enough for families and not sporty enough for enthusiasts. 626 was an insignificant car with boring and bland styling. It even lacked the one thing that Mazda was known for: the driving experience. It was not a surprise that Mazda halted production of this version within four years of its launch.
4 Rebadging Ford Vehicles
Mazda released many rebadged Ford vehicles, which went totally against Mazda's "Horse And Rider As One" philosophy. Mazda wanted to compete against the Big 3 in North America in terms of sales but lost some of its customer base due to introducing boring and bland rebadged Fords. Ford did provide Mazda with finance and marketing know-how but that is all the benefit that Mazda got out of this relationship.
3 Killing Mazda RX-8
Mazda RX-8 was an oddball by Mazda. It had the rotary engine, suicide doors, and was super fun to drive because of its almost mid engine configuration and low center of gravity.
RX-8 did come with its fair share of engine problems and required its owners to be extra vigilant with its maintenance. Mazda, instead of killing RX-8, should have refined it even more and it could have become a legend like the Miata.
2 Missing The Electric/EV Train
Mazda’s first electric crossover MX-30 will go on sale in 2020. This is almost five years after all other major brands introduced some sort of electrification or hybrid technology in their line up.
Mazda, being a small company, had to hustle for the money to invest in R&D involved behind developing EV technologies. But at the pace with which the automotive industry is racing towards electrification, Mazda is now in the catch-up game.
1 Discontinuing Mazdaspeed
It has almost been a decade since Mazda offered its last hot hatch speed 3 back in 2010. Most people think that Mazda’s push towards more luxury cars made performance a second priority in the decision-making.
Mazda still won’t say what their plan is for their performance cars. But with all other major brands offering at least one sporty vehicle, Mazda has surely lost a small but loyal customer base.