Mazda’s ready to tackle America’s appetite for more rugged SUVs. On Wednesday, the first 2023 CX-50 SUV rolled off a sparkling, new assembly line in Huntsville, Alabama. The SUV’s production marks Mazda’s return to building cars in the US after a 10-year hiatus. Mazda last produced cars in the US in Michigan through a Ford joint venture in Flat Rock, Michigan. The new plant is a joint venture between Mazda and Toyota, named Mazda Toyota Manufacturing, and both will share the production capacity.
With the plant’s 4,000-strong workforce and $2.3 billion worth of investment behind it, the plant’s first mission is continue churning out the tailor-made CX-50 for North America. The SUV marks a new strategy for the small Japanese automaker as American buyers move away from passenger cars and embrace more rugged utility vehicles. All the while, the CX-5 will remain and serve as a more traditional crossover SUV option for buyers. We’ll soon see Mazda expand its SUV lineup with an all-new CX-70 SUV and a next-generation CX-90 to replace the current CX-9.
The CX-50 packs a standard all-wheel drive system, heftier looks with body cladding and a new drive mode selector Mazda named Mi-Drive. It lets drivers choose between a handful of modes tuned for off-road elements, towing and more. All the while, the company wants the SUV to carry forward the brand’s recent push into a more premium space. Car buyers will have the final say as they perhaps seek out a Subaru alternative in the CX-50.
To start, the SUV features either a naturally aspirated 2.5-liter inline-four or 2.5-liter turbo-four engine. Both work with a six-speed automatic transmission. However, Mazda is quickly planning to electrify the SUV with a traditional hybrid powertrain and beyond.
We’ll see the first CX-50s land at dealers this coming spring with pricing ahead of time.