Theory of Everything
JINBA-ITTAI IS THE KEY CONCEPT AT THE HEART OF EVERY MAZDA. WE MEET THE ENGINEERING GURUS WHO PUT THIS UNIQUE PHILOSOPHY INTO PRACTICE
2. CONCEPT EVOLVES
Yasuyoshi Mushitani, Technical Leader, Chassis Dynamics, Development Dept., Vehicle Development Division, helped to evolve the concept of Jinba-Ittai into what it is today.
“We engineer the car so that it behaves in line with human sensations
and our innate sense of balance. That is my Jinba-Ittai”
The MX-5 NA went on sale in 1989. Waiting in line overnight in the pre-order queue was Yasuyoshi Mushitani, today in charge of chassis dynamics as Technical Leader in the Vehicle Development Division. Mushitani joined Mazda in 1988. After playing football in the youth league, he went on to represent Mazda Soccer Club (now Sanfrecce Hiroshima) and was also employed in Mazda’s vehicle test operations group, although football took up most of his time.
“I was given the opportunity to train in the English Premier League, and quickly noticed the difference in the quality of play. I didn’t think I’d be able to earn a living as a footballer. So when I became an engineer I vowed that I’d do my job as well as the guys who had gone on to play in the Premier League.”
(Mushitani is the passionate engineer who inculcates the philosophy of Jinba-Ittai into Mazda engineers)
Mushitani retired from football aged 21 and put in a request to join the Chassis Development team. But he had to learn about cars from scratch first, so became a vehicle durability test driver. “We divided 24 hours into three shifts and drove the car round the clock, then to check it we took it apart and put it back together again. It was hard but I learned a lot.”
As Mushitani knuckled down to his new job, he was watched over by Tetsu Kasahara of the Chassis Dynamics Development Department, who he had met soon after joining Mazda. “One evening, Kasahara-san brought over some reference material to the dormitories at Miyoshi Proving Ground, where we tested the cars, and talked to me all night about suspension, how a chassis works. I took notes on all the words I didn’t know and studied hard. Even looking back now, that was a special time.”
Twenty-five years or so have passed, but Mushitani still keeps these technical documents covered with scribbles.
In 1997, Mushitani’s dream was realised and he was moved to the Chassis Dynamics Development department, and in 2003 he transferred to Mazda Europe’s German HQ to gain insight into the European market.
(Mushitani uses a variety of handmade tools in order to measure and detect G-forces and vehicle movement in his quest to fully realize Jinba-Ittai)
A turning point came on his return to Japan, when he was tasked with the 2010 Mazda5 (a Compact Multi-Activity Vehicle), at which Mushitani threw “every skill and experience I’d learned up to that point, even though I knew I would face a lot of criticism”. The Mazda5 earned high praise from the press and customers, as well as from within Mazda. Mushitani was appointed the overall leader who decided the kind of driving Mazda should be aiming for.
(Mazda5 – a compact multi-activity vehicle)
“Basic DNA”. That’s what he calls the fundamental concept behind the kind of driving in today’s Mazdas. “When I looked at the whole model range as one, I decided to build on my experience with the Mazda5 and give the entire line-up the kind of sleekness that I’d inherited from Kasahara-san. I decided that I would stick to this as a universal standard.
“Basic DNA is the tree trunk, while the branches and leaves are things like handling, brakes and NVH [noise, vibration and harshness]. Based on this, we engineer the car so that it behaves in line with human sensations and our innate sense of balance. For example, as well as speeding over mountain passes, you should feel perfectly in tune simply driving at 8mph in a car park — that is my Jinba-Ittai.”
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