From the comments accompanying our new Mazda 6 news story and blog yesterday, I sense that Autocar enthusiasts have an empathy for the way this relative minnow of the car industry goes about its business, from quietly combining established techniques into impressive efficiency savings under the SkyActiv banner, to the way that it single-mindedly puts driving dynamics at the heart of all its cars.
With that in mind, I tracked down Mazda's chief designer, Akira Tamatani, to find out if he goes about his business in the same free-spirited way as the rest of his colleagues. All the signs were promising; this is a man who started his career working on the Bongo commercial vehicle, and moved on to the Mazda 323 and Xedos 9, before more recently taking more recent responsibility for the Mazda 2, 3 and 6. And, sure enough, he didn't disappoint.
"The first thing I did was decide my own path, rather than pour over too much customer and dealer feedback" he said, when asked how he went about designing the Mazda 6. "It is important to use this information as filters, but it should not set the path of what you want to design. If you do that, you design by committee, and the end result is not so interesting for anyone".
Tamatani is open about why he has the freedom to be a bit more maverick than some of his colleagues, saying: "What is key is that in any market we operate in, Mazda's market share is small. Our customers are not people who go with the flow, but who make their own decisions and want something distinctive. That gives me lots of freedom".
"My designs must send a strong message to these people that they want to buy a Mazda. It is not about appealing to a lot of people, but appealing to the people with the free minds to chose our cars".
All future Mazdas will be born from the Kodo design philosophy that has so far borne the Mazda CX-5 and the latest Mazda 6. In artistic terms, the cars are meant to demonstrate the athleticism of a running animal or athlete, but in simple terms I reckon they both look great. Tamatani says he wants to push boundaries without stepping over them, and I reckon it's a case of so far, so good, albeit with the caveat of the looming necessity to update the iconic MX-5.
Many will disagree with me, of course, and I hope those that do and don't will leave their opinions below.