More stories related to Geneva Motor Show GENEVA – The all-new ’06 Mazda MX-5 Miata rides on a new dedicated platform, but enjoys cost savings from engineering for other vehicles, most notably the RX-8, executives says.

The first new-from-the-ground-up version of the roadster since 1989 made its world debut here Monday, on the eve of the Geneva auto show. Technically, Mazda Motor Corp. refers to the ’06 as the third-generation Miata, as the 16-year-old roadster received a major makeover in 1998. (See related story: Mazda MX-5 Miata Poised for Global Debut)

There are no carryover parts from the current MX-5.

But engineering, especially in producing parts for the RX-8 4-door coupe, became lessons learned for the MX-5.

’06 Mazda MX-5

“There are cost savings from using engineering for the RX-8,” says Joseph Bakaj, senior managing executive officer-research and development. “Once you have the basic geometry of parts, you can scale them down.”

The roadster employs the same 2L 4-cyl. engine used in the Mazda6 and Mazda3, but tuned for the MX-5. It shares the transmission that is in the RX-8, again modified and tuned. The air conditioning system is from the RX-8; the alternator is in the Mazda3 and the Mazda6; and the power steering pumps can be found in the Mazda6.

The design of the front structure of the RX-8, optimized for crashworthiness, migrates to the MX-5. Because the location of the hard points on the MX-5 are the same as the RX-8, the two cars can run down the same line at the Ujina No.1 plant in Japan.

“The individual modules of the MX-5 are not special, it’s the way they blend together that gives it personality,” Bakaj says.

“If we have an icon, it’s this car,” say Moray Callum, general manager of Mazda design.

The goal was to take a great formula and bring it into the 21st century. There are other cars where Mazda can be more experimental with design, Callum says, but not the MX-5. If anything, it needed to be taken back to its roots as a lightweight sports car, but made sportier to show off its rear-wheel-drive heritage for car buffs.

For that reason, the new MX-5 has a detachable hardtop, but it is not power retractable because that would have added weight and cost. The new soft top folds in a one-handed, simple operation.

“A retractable hardtop does not go with the car’s image,” Callum tells Ward’s. “A high beltline is not the way to go either. This is not a trendy car or a fashion car.”

Unlike some architectures, such as the Mazda6’s, which were designed to be shared by other brands under the Ford Motor Co. umbrella, there are no plans for other family members to build a roadster from the MX-5.

“We share a lot with Ford. It doesn’t mean every vehicle we do, we have to share,” Bakaj says, noting there is no real synergy for a low-volume or niche sports car. “We’ve got a strong position in the market to protect,” he adds.

Job One should be in May, and pilot production already has begun, with U.S. sales to get under way in early fall. While the first salable units will be produced for the U.S. market, Japanese dealers will get them in showrooms first, because they are closer to the factory. Europe will get its first deliveries a few months after Japan and the U.S.

Pricing will be announced in two to three months, but it should stay comparable with that of the existing model (about $22,000), says Stephen T. Odell, Mazda director and senior managing executive officer, responsible for global sales and marketing.

He says the MX-5 is prepared to take on other small sport cars, even those double the price. It also will have to compete with the new $19,990 Pontiac Solstice.

Mazda sells 35,000-40,000 roadsters globally, about 10,000 of them in the U.S. Odell will not say how many of the new generation the auto maker expects to sell.

But the flexibility of Ujina No.1, which builds the RX-8, MX-5, MPV and Demio (Mazda2), as well as Ujina No.1 and Hofu, give Mazda total capacity of about 800,000-900,000 units, with each facility able to build six different models, Odell says.

apriddle@primediabusiness.com