Mazda’s North American unit is claiming a market first for its new rear view mirror-mounted liquid crystal display system which lets SUV drivers see clearly what’s happening behind the vehicle without taking their eyes off the road in front.

The first of its kind to be installed in vehicles in the North American market, this mirror-mounted back up camera with auto-dimming mirror display will be “available” (US industry-speak for ‘optional at extra cost’) on CX-9 models not factory-equipped with DVD navigation systems (which already include a back up camera)– giving drivers the ability to see the display screen and the rear view mirror simultaneously, the automaker said.

When the vehicle is shifted into reverse, an LCD screen automatically appears within the reflective surface of the mirror, showing a real-time panoramic view of the area at the rear of the vehicle.  Once the vehicle is shifted into any other gear, the display disappears.

Using special “transflective” coatings and lighting technology developed by Gentex Corporation, which specialises in complex rear view mirror assemblies, the high-resolution, 2.4-inch diagonal active-matrix video display is housed in an automatic-dimming rearview mirror, which dims in response to headlight glare from trailing vehicles in order to make night driving safer.

“Safety is always a top priority for Mazda and we want all CX-9 customers to have the added security of a rearview backup camera, regardless of the trim level or option package they select,” said Jack Stavana, director, accessory operations for Mazda North American Operations.

Available as either a dealer-or port-installed option, the kit will include an auto-dimming rearview mirror with display and lift gate-mounted rear camera.  Expected availability is early summer 2007, and pricing will start at $US665 port-installed or $675 dealer-installed.