The New Design Of Mazda: Going Beyond The Flow

May 29, 2010/Steve Tackett


With his shaved head, slim build, well-cut suit and high-collared white textured Hugo Boss shirt, Derek Jenkins has rock-star quality. He even looks a little like tennis champion Andre Agassi. As Director of Design for Mazda North America, Jenkins could be on the way to rock-star status in the car world.
Mazda had already gained kudos for its Japanese “Nagare” design concepts when Jenkins joined the team over a year ago. To give you some background, Nagare, a Japanese word, means “flow”; bringing it to car design was a matter of analyzing how natural forces like wind and water move in nature. The designers looked at these natural flow lines and started to incorporate them into the surfaces, textures and proportions of concept cars.
The Mazda Nagare car was influenced by geological flow patterns, the Mazda Ryuga car was inspired by Japanese raked gardens and the Hakaze, a compact crossover coupe, took its shapes from sand-dunes and water. The Nagare idea transferred over into present day cars like the Mazda3 and the upcoming Mazda5.
Former chief designer at Volkswagen group for 15 years, Jenkins, had worked on some noted concepts including the Concept 1 (which became the New Beetle), the Microbus concept and the half-car, half-motorcycle GX3.
Obviously, he had the right mindset for Mazda.
“I can envision where Mazda can go…the potential motivates me,” Jenkins said in a recent interview. We were walking around the 2011 Mazda2 and Jenkins was pointing out the muscular shoulders, the flirty windows, the simple pared-down tailoring dynamics that added what he called “punch with sophistication.”
“More kids at a young age are attuned to detail; there’s a general awareness of design in consumer goods,” he noted, “the challenge is to get it at good value.”
And with that Mazda introduces its 2011 Mazda2, a five-door hatchback, with a starting price point of $13,980.

Jenkins_ Mazda

The Mazda2 is badged as “small, eco-friendly and fun to drive.”
Offered in two trims — Sport and Touring — this subcompact has an estimated fuel economy rating of 28 miles per gallon city and 35 mpg highway. The fun-to-drive quotient is the 1.5-liter engine with 100 horsepower.
Jenkins commented that the team’s inspiration for design comes from all over the place. They’re still into the Japanese natural forces flow, but lately the team is taking inspiration from fashion and premium products with contrasting detail.
Mazda’s Jenkins says, “People are looking for a more emotional level with their car.”
And, of course, they want to feel like a rock star. — Holly Reich, Motor Matters

Copyright, Motor Matters, 2010