Rotary engine fanatics don’t have a lot of car companies they can turn to in order to satisfy their Wankel craving, but the one automaker they’ve been able to depend on pretty reliably is Mazda. Well, that may change in the next few years. And as with all too many problems these days, you can blame it on the global economic downturn.
Mazda executive officer in charge of product planning and powertrain development Kiyoshi Fujiwara told Ward’s Automotive that Mazda is looking for projects to cut in order to trim the fat around the company, and the rotary program is one of the items being considered for the firing squad. Fujiwara said development has been paused for the moment while the company discusses its option, but the Wankel hasn’t been offed yet.
That said, Fujiwara says he hopes Mazda doesn’t ditch the rotary. “I’ve always said rotary engines literally are part of our soul,” he told Ward’s. Indeed, Fujiwara told The Detroit Bureau that the company has been trying to find ways to make the engine more powerful and more efficient. “[Senior management] told me not to let it go,” he told TDB.
If Mazda doesn’t kill the rotary, odds are good we’ll see the latest version in production by 2017—the 50th anniversary of the engine’s first use in a production car. Until then, we’ll just have to amuse ourselves with the Wankel in the RX-8…until it goes out of production at the end of this model year. [via Ward's, TDB]
Pictured: Mazda RX-8