THE PEOPLE BEHIND THE MX-5 INTERVIEW
  • Yukiharu Asano Clay Modeler
  • Masashi Nakayama Next MX-5 Chief Designer
  • Shinichi Yasui Production Planning Dept., Production Engineering Division
  • Yukio Nakamura Product Planning Dept Product Division
  • Tetsuo Fujitomi Powertrain Planning Dept
  • Hitoshi Takamatsy Deputy Program Managertte
  • Nobuhiro Yamamoto Program Manager

See their personality and potential in their
expressive power that has the power to strike a
chord with people.

Tetsuo Fujitomi
Powertrain Planning Dept

Tetsuo Fujitomi, in charge of powertrain development for the next MX-5, sometimes transforms into a miniature version of himself, as if he were one of the crew in the Fantastic Voyage. The expression on his face becomes deep and thoughtful, he sometimes closes his eyes, and just like in the movie, he imagines himself entering the insides of the engine or transmission he is working on. Observing the inner wall of the intake pipe, he ponders if the air can really flow freely through the pipe. Staring at how the gears of the transmission engage with the other parts, he wonders how to make them rotate more smoothly.
----"I made a mistake in the past. There was a screw that I didn't set carefully enough in the interior of the engine's air filter housing, and which resulted in cases of the screw coming loose and falling off after long periods of use. It could be considered a mistake of youth and inexperience. But when I reflected back on that mistake, it dawned on me what I had to do. I myself had to become the air and oil that travels through the engine and feel what happens inside."

When a driver revs an engine,
there is a special relationship between
the man and the machine that can't be
expressed in numbers.

----"I have a clear image of what the MX-5's powertrain should be-it should be the perfect harmony between man and machine, as expressed by the words Jinba-Ittai. In other words, it should be the physical representation of the joy of driving. But, what exactly is Jinba-Ittai in terms of the powertrain?
----"I can feel an engine live and breathe, but I know that it is a machine of nuts and bolts and that it can't actually fuse with a flesh-and-blood human being. However, I also know that when a driver revs an engine, there is a special relationship between the man and the machine that can't be expressed in numbers. We designers call this higher-level connection, Kan, a Japanese word meaning something similar to the English, sensation. We have spent a great deal of time trying to physically express this concept."

We begin searching for what is ideal and
verifying the phenomena that occur
along the way.

Fujitomi says he believes that the hint to the answer of physically expressing Kan is in how a driver handles a car, the linearity that corresponds with the movement of the driver's thoughts, and he and many other developers are once again attempting to use numbers to verify what Kan is.
----"SKYACTIV is the new ultimate truth in Mazda's car manufacturing, and we begin the path to a SKYACTIV powertrain by searching for what is ideal and verifying the phenomena that occur along the way. The path that we walk has no end. As soon as we reach an answer, we are on a level from which we can see the next new question. For this project, the main question we are asking is what is the perfect harmony between man and machine. In order to find that answer, we are prudently searching for what represents Kan from many different perspectives.

The quintessential ingredient in creating
something is still just people's
imagination.

In this day and age, where verification systems that use advanced computers is the norm, engineers are not building an endless number of prototypes the way they did in the past. Because of this, Fujitomi finds himself asking young engineers from time to time, "Did you go inside and have a look?"
----"Even in this modern age with all of this evolved technology, the quintessential ingredient in creating something is still just people's imagination. And I believe that in this regard, creating a powertrain suitable for the MX-5 is the ultimate test. That is why I feel we could never perfect this powertrain without feeling the creative process with both our body and soul. Every other developer in this project believes this as well, and they work every day on the extremely difficult task of creating the perfect harmony between man and machine; the perfect Jinba-Ittai."

Ask myself if I was really making the most of my
childhood dream of creating cars.

Fujitomi, whose youth was intertwined with Japan's post-war motorization boom, was enamored by the excitement, freedom and fresh perspective that car ownership bestowed. Just before starting college, Fujitomi started living on his own in an apartment that overlooked a Mazda factory. Gazing at it one day, he realized that he wanted nothing more than to develop Mazda cars. Unfortunately, in the year the he graduated Mazda did not accept any new graduates. So he accepted a position at a parts manufacturer, and three years later applied to Mazda again. This time, his dream came true.
----"Yes, I achieved my dream to be a part of Mazda, but I got complacent. I went through my workday without a care, happily doing the work in front of me."
However, Fujitomi's love of cars was reawakened when he began going to the United States for work.
----"Driving on those wide open roads, I started to remember the feelings I had about cars that I had forgotten about. The feeling where you can go anywhere, at any time, in a space that was all your own; the joy of driving where the time behind the wheel was just plain fun. That's what a car meant to me! During my trips I began to ask myself if I was really making the most of my childhood dream of creating cars. It was then that I decided to really take up the challenge of creating cars once again."

Reflects the driver's feelings into the experience
without obstruction or interference; to create
a car with such an unsurpassed level of Kan

Fujitomi began reading everything from any genre he could get his hands on. He was particularly looking for hints on the nature of human happiness in the words that he read. He believed that in order to complete a car that could excite the heart, he had to expand his mind as a creator as much as he could.
This is the Fujitomi who stands on the brink of the final stage of development of the MX-5's powertrain.
----"The goal of this project is to create a car that feels like a seamless extension of the driver's body, whether male or female, an automotive novice or an expert; to create a car that reflects the driver's feelings into the experience without obstruction or interference; to create a car with such an unsurpassed level of Kan, that a simple shopping trip can become a sport-driving thrill. For me, Kan is the love that I had towards cars as a child. It is the love that I rediscovered so many years after growing up. This project is the creation of a car that is the culmination of that love. The next MX-5 is the embodiment of people's Kan."