Meet Tomiko Takeuchi, the architect of Mazda’s first all-electric car, the Mazda MX-30, and one of Mazda’s most qualified and ground-breaking test drivers.
When Tomiko Takeuchi was appointed as a Program Manager in 2015, she was the first-ever female to take the position at Mazda. The responsibilities that came with the post were vast. Takeuchi would oversee the entire spectrum of developing not just any new model, but Mazda’s first EV, from scratch. This included planning, design, marketing, logistics, sales and aftersales services.
“My heart was racing; the importance of the role was very exciting, as well as a little daunting,” she says.
A History of Making History
Takeuchi felt under tremendous pressure given she was entrusted with building such a historic vehicle for Mazda, but her boss was resolute that she was the right person for the job. Besides, this was not the first time Takeuchi had made history at Mazda.
In 1999 she became the company’s first female test driver. Then in 2004, Takeuchi received one of the top three special licenses (the class A license) – the only woman to have achieved that status.
“And to this day, I’m still the only female test driver with that special license,” says Takeuchi.
So began Takeuchi’s journey as Program Manager of the Mazda MX-30, the company’s first-ever fully electric production vehicle. Takeuchi’s signature tenacity and determination are two characteristics she would call on regularly in the following years.
Tenacious Attention to Detail
Takeuchi’s determination shows itself in her insatiable quest for knowledge and understanding. Coupled with her unique perspective as a test driver, she was uniquely equipped to perfect every last detail of the ground-breaking MX-30.
“This particular experience has allowed me to establish the essential vocabulary to evaluate the cars down to their smallest detail. I put together a detailed, in-depth report in my own words to help the engineers fine-tune the various test vehicles I have worked on into a final production model.”
Her passion and skillset turned out to be priceless while overseeing the development of the Mazda MX-30. With more than 1,000 staff from around the world involved in the project, it was essential for Takeuchi to communicate her ideas clearly, ensure the wisdom of others was heard, and to keep the team stayed focused on crafting an EV with distinctly Mazda dynamics.
Building an EV for Passionate Drivers
Unlike when she worked on the Mazda MX-5 and Mazda2, Takeuchi and her team didn’t have a previous model to use as reference for Mazda’s first EV. “It was a particularly difficult project. It was literally a blank sheet of paper and we had to start from scratch,” Takeuchi explains. “There were so many changes to the design and specifications along the way that we had to go back to the drawing board over and over again.”
What Takeuchi and her team came up with is an EV that evokes Mazda’s human-centric approach for driving dynamics through all-new electrification technology, e-Skyactiv EV. Powered by a lithium-ion battery, the front-wheel drive electric motor provides a smooth and connected feeling. No detail was overlooked as they crafted the MX-30’s driving dynamics. The team determined that by positioning the battery pack for a low center of gravity, body rigidity was increased — which in turn creates a more familiar, natural driving experience.
New electric G-Vectoring Control Plus (e-GVC Plus), uses electric motor torque adjustments to control vehicle load and help provide natural and consistent handling. To provide the driver with an added sense of familiarity, an EV sound is generated to offer audible feedback in sync with the electric motor.
“I cannot thank the team enough. It was obvious to me that no matter how advanced car making might be these days, it’s the collective will and hard work of all the people involved that pushes through projects like the MX-30,” says Takeuchi.
Redefining the Road Ahead
With the MX-30 arriving in California showrooms in October 2021, Takeuchi may have reached one significant milestone, but her job is far from finished. Although she pays little attention to being the first female Program Manager in the history of the company, she does believe there is scope for more women to hold senior positions in the automotive industry.
“It’s important to develop cars that give kids and young people pleasure and a sense of comfort, a car they want to enjoy again and again, and I believe women have just as much experience and insight to offer in this as men. Cars are not just about driving from A to B anymore. It’s important to give people pleasure; that they enjoy the time they spend in their car. And if we achieve that, we’ll also have more people enjoying the time they spend driving.”