Reports indicate that the planned Toyota-Mazda joint venture in either Alabama or North Carolina will produce a new crossover SUV beginning in 2021. According to the chief executive officer of Mazda, Masamichi Kogai, it is expected that the new crossover sports-utility vehicle will become a best-seller. Initially, the plant, which will possess a capacity of manufacturing 150,000 units, will be dedicated entirely to the production of the new crossover.
The introduction of the new SUV coincides with a decline in sales that the Japanese carmaker has experienced in North America. Though Mazda had been expecting to have reached yearly sales of over 400,000 cars in the United States by now, this is the second year it is recording declines. Currently the volumes it is selling are under 300,000 units per year. Kogai is however optimistic that there will be a turnaround in the volume of sales by 2019 and the level will actually accelerate in 2021 following the introduction of the new sports-utility model.
Location for the facility
But even as Mazda makes plans for a new SUV, the Japanese carmaker and its partner in the joint venture, Toyota, are yet to decide on a location for the auto plant worth $1.6 billion. The facility is expected to create 4,000 new direct jobs and many other indirect ones as suppliers will also set up their operations in the vicinity.
According to recent reports two proposed megasites in Chatham County and Moncure have now been ruled out. A 1,900-acre megasite near Liberty is now believed to be strongly positioned since it possesses an extensive transportation infrastructure and a strong manufacturing workforce.
Fuel cell technology
The announcement of the planned SUV from the Toyota-Mazda joint venture coincides with reports indicating that Toyota is appearing isolated in its bet on cars that are powered by hydrogen as rivals are increasingly embracing electric vehicles. A case in point is the hydrogen-powered Toyota Mirai which was unveiled three years ago. The car is yet to reach sales of 5,000 units while a comparable electric car, the Nissan leaf, has sold units reaching approximately 300,000.
Other car manufacturers which had invested in the development of hydrogen cars such as Audi, Honda and Hyundai have also refocused and turned their attention to electric vehicles.
“It’s easier for companies to make a profit with EV, and it’s easier for governments to prepare the infrastructure. For the past few years, it’s been EV that’s been gaining traction. Because of that, it’s EV that’s much closer to becoming reality,” Richard Kaye, Nippon Comgest’s portfolio manager, said.