‘Petrolhead’ and sports car enthusiast Ikuo Maeda wants to inject a fourth element into Mazda’s design philosophy.

He’s not sure what it is yet but the new head of Mazda design knows there’s something missing.

“Our Nagara design shows emotion and passion,” said Maeda who was chief designer on both the RX-8 and 2/Demio. The RX-8 shows the automaker can produce “alluring and sexy” cars while the 2 demonstrates “the lean, sharp element of the design,” he said.

“We need to combine all these elements and add a fourth.”

To do that, he will be drawing on the expertise of his design centres in both Europe and North America.

“Co-ordinating design globally is a big challenge since everything has to be engineered in Japan. It doesn’t work to have the centres working on different designs of the same model so each studio will produce its own concepts,” he said.

While Maeda agrees that the current line-up is “fine”, he would love to add a sports car to rival Nissan’s GT-R or the Porsche 911.

“We have the technical capability, but now is not the right time,” said Maeda who drives a Lotus Elise at home in Japan and has previously owned a Mini Cooper and Alfa Romeo Guilietta.

The Superlight MX-5 concept unveiled at Frankfurt has no production future.

“It demonstrates the very simple soul of Mazda – a car that is fun to drive and simple,” said Maeda. “It also helps to showcase lightweight technology which is increasingly important in the quest for lower emissions and better fuel economy.”

He believes the advent of electric cars and other alternative powertrains will allow designers much greater freedom to change the proportion of vehicles.

“Personally, I don’t like EVs, I love the sound of an engine and the smell of oil – I’m old fashioned like that, but now is a good time to be a stylist.”