GAH! No! This can’t be happening! THIS CAN’T BE HAPPENING!! But, it is, and, although it pains me deeply to say this, it isn’t all that surprising. No, I’m not about to go on a screed about the manifest stupidity of the American car buying public (I can let that topic slide for the moment), but it was hard to say for any gearhead with grease permanently crusted under their nails to say this was a surprise.
The RX-8, as lovely and potent a ride as it is, never sold anywhere near what Mazda thought it was going to. So sure, the economy tanked, nearly went into another great depression (thank you a-hole bankers and easily bought off politicians!), and yeah, you might be able to say that the RX-8 is a little confusing with those wacky doors and trying to have its cake and eat it too (it’s a two seater! it’s a four seater! it’s practical! it’s sporty!), but, as always, it was two things concerning the one thing that really sets the RX-8 apart that did it in: Its rotary engine.
‘This time,’ said the techno-boffins from Hiroshima, ‘this time we got all those, erm, bugs, worked out of the rotary engine! This time it’s going to be different! You’ll see! Just buy one and you’ll get it!’
And of course, what we, the gearheads with a penchant for things rotary, got, was a wonderfully flexible plant that still (still! still? still!!) put out pollutants like Gary, Indiana and drank fuel the a sailor drinks rum.
I used to race a fully-prepped RX-7 in rallies. Sweet Jeebus that thing was fast. And the powerband? Forgetaboutit. Flexible as a rubber band. As a matter of fact, that’s what driving the thing felt like: It felt like you were on one end of a giant rubber band, and when you stood on the right-hand peddle, zzzzzzzzzZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZWAAAAAAAANGGGG! you were suddenly at the next turn. Which was good. Because that meant you were closer to the next check point where I could pull off and top up the tank. I swear I’ve driven Hemi ‘Cudas that did better MPGs than that car did.
So, when Mazda (all blessings and peace be upon them) announced they were at long last bringing back the rotary mill in a new car dubbed the RX-8 AND, more importantly, said that it was going to be the cleanest and most efficient Wankle engine ever, me and every other rotary guy out there said a silent, “yeah, sure, I’ll believe it when I see it.”
And sure, to a certain extent, the engine in RX-8 was cleaner and more efficient then the last rotary … but it was nowhere near where it should have been in either of those measurements. It still just squeaked into 50 state compliance on the sniff test (or that’s what tuners were telling me at the time) and owners said that they were lucky to see 14 MPG in every day driving.
And so, here we find ourselves on this sad day when Automotive News has reported that Mazda has stopped production of its RX-8, ” … due to lackluster sales and ever tighter global emissions standards.”
The Japanese concern was able to sell a meager 1,134 of the RX-8s in 2010, and 2011 looks even worse, with sales down by 21 percent through July. That sound you hear is the rending of garments and gnashing of teeth from the product planning offices. And this downward trend comes after Mazda was compelled to eliminate the RX-8 from the European market last year after it Borked the emissions tests. So, Mazda said that ” … it simply can’t justify continuing to manufacture the vehicle without sales in the old country.”
According to Automotive News, production has already wrapped up in Hiroshima, Japan as of July, and global sales will cease this year. A.N. says that U.S. dealers have 300 RX-8 units in stock, so if you’ve been putting off buying one of these guys, you might want to get down to the dealer double-quick.
Sources say that, “While this may be the end for the rotary sports car in the near-term, Mazda has made it clear that the manufacturer isn’t giving up on its rotary heritage any time soon. ”
Yeah, yeah, yeah … I’ve heard that one before.