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Mazda shelves development of their rotary engine

By Rigval on 20 Aug 2011

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The people over at Mazda are basically discussing the future of Mazda’s continued use of the Wankel rotary engine as I type. Automotive industry website Ward’s Auto had spoken to Kiyoshi Fujiwara, head of Mazda’s product planning and powertrain development that the developments pertaining to the engine has been put on hold.

While it has been admitted that the rotary engine is a part of Mazda’s soul, the current state of the world’s economy had forced Mazda to evaluate several on-going development programs including the rotary engine program. The thing about these Wankel engines (say ‘wankel’ out loud – its interesting) is that they tend to sip fuel at a slightly more alarming rate, sip small amounts of engine oil in between servicing and sometimes burn through their apex seals by about 100,000km or so (if you aren’t lucky). In the current economic and eco-friendly frenzy that we live in such an engine will fall short of current fuel saving and environmental necessities.

In fact the Mazda head had also stated that the company has basically solved two of the three fundamental problems plaguing the Wankel engine. He would not tell Ward’s Auto which are the three problems, but from the paragraph above, you can tell what the fundamental problems are.
Anyway, Mazda has stated that for the time being, they have stopped development of the rotary engine and will put its focus on their new SKYACTIV high compression, direct injection engines. 70mpg from a 1.3 petrol engine makes more sense than 18mpg from a 1.3 Wankel in times where fuel prices is a sensitive issue globally.

Mazda will only re-start any rotary engine development if their bread and butter cars using the SKYACTIV engines start selling by the bucketloads. Once this happens, they can once again channel some of the profits to making the rotary engine better than it currently is.
Let’s hope this can happen as if Mazda wants to wait for fuel prices to come down then such a thing may not ever happen.

So what will the next pure sports car from Mazda run if it isn’t a rotary engine? Will there ever been a Mazda with the ‘RX’ moniker ever again? I hope so, as I truly love the RX7and to an extent have some respect for the RX8 (picture below). They are actually a lot of fun to drive but owning one was never high on my list due to the problems stated above. But the automotive world would be a much duller place if these cars, with their unique engines went the way of the dodo - extinct.

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Written by Rigval
Born in 1972. Married with a kid. Loves B-road drives and have driven cars from the 1950s to date.

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