Mazda Washu
By Anthony Lewis

DETROIT: Mazda’s Washu concept, unveiled at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, is more than a hint of the company’s future design direction.

The six-seater people-carrier can be swiftly transformed into a single-seat cargo carrier, but it is the innovative door designs which will find their way into Mazda production vehicles before too long.

Sliding rear doors make it easy to get in and out of the car while at the front, unique forward hinging allows wide opening. At the back the tailgate opens in two sections with the glass hinged upwards in hatchback fashion while the lower panel drops straight down.

Washu means Eagle’s wing in Japanese and Moray Callum, Mazda’s design chief, says of the concept: "A six seater that sends such a strong visual message is really unprecedented.

"If the RX-8 represents excitement for four people, our six-seat Washu presents excitement for six people."

While admitting that the Washu is only a concept at the moment, Callum says that it is not Mazda’s policy "to indulge in idle dreams."

The six seat concept benefits from a low, flat floor and long wheelbase. The seats are ‘captain’s chairs’, the middle pair electrically-powered which can be independently moved backwards and forwards. They also slide to the side to make access to the rear seats easier.

Using ‘steer-by-wire’ technology means that the steering wheel can be stored out of the way when the car is parked, making it even easier to get in and out of the front seats.

Power comes from an all-new 3.5 litre V6 engine mated to a six-speed automatic gearbox.

Lewis Booth, president and chief executive officer of Mazda Motor Corporation, said that the company would unveil another new production model at the Geneva motor show in March and with the global production facilities refurbished, Mazda was now in a position to be planning ten years ahead.

Published : 10/01/03 Author : Melanie Carter

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