Mazda Partnering with China's Changan Auto on Electric SUV, Report Says

The vehicle isn't expected to be out until 2019, and it may only be available in China, at least for now.

2005 Mazda RX8
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As one of the smallest major automakers, Mazda must lean on larger companies for the resources to develop electric cars. Mazda already has a partnership with Toyota, and now it appears to be partnering with Chinese automaker Changan Auto on electric cars as well.

Mazda and Changan are jointly developing an electric SUV that will launch in 2019, according to a report by Nikkei Asian Review. The SUV is likely aimed at the Chinese market. China plans to institute sales targets for electric cars and plug-in hybrids next year, leaving automakers scrambling to launch more electrified vehicles.

Under the terms of the reported deal, Changan will supply most of the components for an electric powertrain, including the motor and battery pack. Mazda will provide the body those components will be installed in. The electric SUV will be manufactured at Changan Mazda, a 50/50 joint venture between the two companies.

Joint ventures like this are the norm for foreign automakers manufacturing cars in China. Government rules require foreign firms to partner with local automakers if they want to build cars in China. But the impending 2019 regulations have generated even more partnerships. Ford, for example, is partnering with Zotye Auto on electric cars for the Chinese market.

It's unclear how a potential Mazda-Changan partnership will affect the development of Mazda electric cars for other markets. While the company is still holding out hope that it can perfect its homogenous charge compression ignition system to improve fuel efficiency, Mazda will ultimately need some electric cars or plug-in hybrids to meet stricter global emissions standards.

Mazda recently said that it is open to reviving its signature rotary engine as a range-extender for some form of electrified vehicle. It also has a partnership with Toyota to jointly develop electric cars. Right now, though, Mazda doesn't have any electric cars or even hybrids in its lineup.