Mazda has promoted Kevin Rice – currently its creative director for Europe – as chief of its European design operations, effective Sept. 1, 2014. He is succeeding Peter Birtwhistle who is retiring following a 26-year career at Mazda.
Mazda Europe chief executive Jeff Guyton said in a statement that with Rice continuing Birtwhiste’s work, Mazda will have the necessary continuity while presenting a new generation of designers. Rice is succeeding a design team at a time when Mazda is on a rise, thanks to rollouts of new products like the CX5 SUV, Mazda3 compact and midsize Mazda6 -- all using the brand’s new Kodo design language.
Mazda is set to unveil its latest MX-5/Miata roadster on Sept. 3 during simultaneous events in Japan, Spain and the United States. Mazda posted a 23-percent jump in sales in the first half of 2014 to 92,430 units in Europe, according to industry association ACEA.
A British national, Rice studied Transportation Design at Coventry University. Before joining Mazda in 1995, he was with at Italdesign in Italy and Opel in Germany. Rice was senior designer at Mazda Europe from 1995 to 2000. In this senior role, he contributed to several proposals for future Mazda models including the RX-8. He also led development of the Neospace show car that was displayed at the 1999 Frankfurt Motor Show.
In 2000, Rice moved to BMW, where he spent around 13 years. At the German premium carmaker, Rice was responsible for the exterior development of several models including the new 3 series and 4 series. The latest development marks his return to Mazda's European R&D Centre in Oberursel, Germany.
Mazda was founded in Hiroshima, Japan, on January 30, 1920, as Toyo Cork Kogyo Co., Ltd. In 1927, Toyo Cork Kogyo was renamed as Toyo Kogyo Co. In 1931, Toyo Kogyo started production of the Mazda-Go autorickshaw. While every vehicle that Toyo Kogyo has sold since the beginning carries the Mazda name, company formally adopted the Mazda name only in 1984.
Toyo Kogyo commenced vehicle sales in Europe in 1967. An affiliate company for the carmaker– Mazda Motors Deutschland -- was established in Germany in November 1972. In December 1987, the now Mazda established it European r&d center in Oberursel, Germany. In March 1998, the Japanese carmaker set up Mazda Motor Europe (MME) in Leverkusen, Germany.
The Mazda MX-5 was originally was unveiled at the Chicago Auto Show in February 1989. Sales of the first-gen MX-5 (NA) started in North America in May 1989; in Japan in September 1989; in Europe 1990. Thanks to very positive press reviews, demand initially topped production.
The MX-5 is currently in its third generation (NC), which was introduced in 2005. The MX-5 NC shares no components with the second-generation MX-5 NB. A facelifted version of the MX-5 was revealed at the 2008 Paris Motor Show.