Mazda also says RX-8 successor may be merged with next MX-5 roadster - rotary engine still under consideration for the future sport models.

Mazda has confirmed that there will be a successor to the RX-8 but that the new sports model could be merged with the next MX-5 roadster.

Mazda president and CEO, Takashi Yamanouchi, disclosed that while speaking to a group of journalist at the 2011 Tokyo Motor Show. He wouldn't confirm whether the new car would have a rotary engine or not but said that Mazda is still considering a new generation of the technology.

Said Yamanouchi:

"Production of the RX-8 does stop in 2012 but what comes after that I'm not in a position to say. But I have been saying everywhere that we will continue research on the rotary engine. We will not extinguish the flame of the rotary engine.

That kind of product is iconic for our brand. So the current MX-5 or RX-8 we have decided in the future to maintain that type of [sports car] product.

I can't say, however, that they will be separate ... they may be merged into one.[We] can't rule out the possibility [of a rotary-powered MX-5]."

But if the rotary engine is to have a future it will need to be improved.

"We need a measure a plan to upgrade the [fuel] efficiency and torque [of the engine] otherwise we don't see much progress [from the current rotary in the RX-8]," continued Yamanouchi.

Another option to keep the rotary engine alive is a range-extender rotary unit powered by hydrogen. Prototypes using the technology are already in use, according to Yamanouchi, where the rotary is used to produce electric power and steam is the only emission.

Gallery: Rotary powered Mazda MX-5 possible, RX-8 replacement confirmed

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