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New York show: Mazda targets customer retention

Let's go shopping: Mazda will market its new-generation CX-9 SUV at shopping centres around Australia.

American Mazda aims to lift its customer loyalty rate from bottom to top

30 Mar 2016


MAZDA’S American arm wants more of its customers to come back for another Mazda, just as they do in Australia.

While Mazda Australia has an admirably high customer retention rate, Mazda brand loyalty in the United States is among the lowest in that market – a situation that the company’s boss aims to improve.

Mazda North American Operations president and CEO and Mazda Motor Corporation managing executive officer Masahiro Moro said his priority was to improve the company's standing among US consumers.

“Our clear target is to become the brand that has the highest brand loyalty,” he told Australian journalists at last week's New York motor show. “That single objective. And sales volume, profit will be a fall out.

“To be honest with you, our approach is, how we can keep customers within our product portfolio? I think that is most important because as a small player, a high retention rate is really important.

“Unfortunately, we are at the bottom of the industry on this – 34 per cent retention rate – so we are trying to improve that to at least 50 per cent as soon as we can and further pushing up to 60 per cent which is the industry top.”

Mr Moro hinted that Mazda could look at adding more SUV model lines, but said that he did not see an “urgent need to add additional car lines”.

“At this moment we have three good crossovers in the USA – CX-3, CX-5 and CX-9,” he said. “I think that is OK right now.

“To me the most important priority in the US is to improve customer retention.

Keep CX-5 customers coming back to CX-5 or CX-9. This is a priority before looking for further development.”

While Mazda Australia is kicking goals with customer retention, marketing director Alastair Doak says the company was “continually improving and evolving” its “sophisticated CRM (customer relationship management) program”.

But Mr Doak admitted it would be difficult for the company to continue to grow its market share at the current rate in the increasingly segmented Australian market.

Last year Mazda finished second in Australian sales, with 114,024 units, a 13.2 per cent increase over 2014, to give it a 9.9 per cent share of the market behind Toyota's massive 17.8 stake.

Asked how much more the brand could grow year on year in Australia, he said: “We are already covering about 80 per cent of the market anyway so from that point of view, not a huge amount.

“We don’t have any ambitions to ramp up sales. We will end up with about 115,000 this (Japanese) financial year which ends in a couple of weeks. In the short term, this coming financial year will probably be when we consolidate.”

Mr Doak praised Mazda's Australian dealer network for managing the increase in volume, which was more than 13,000 last year, largely on the back of the instantly popular CX-3 crossover.

He added that further growth was possible once the second-generation CX-9 arrived mid-year.

“We put a huge amount of pressure on our dealers when we have those significant volume jumps,” he said.

“It was like 12,000-plus in one year. That is hard for the guys to absorb that additional activity and keep the standards they would like to deliver to their customers.

“They have done a fantastic job this year in doing that. We think this year everybody can kind of make sure all of their processes are in place again and make sure we have kept up.

“Having said that there is still opportunities for growth. The market has started the calendar year up and there will be growth in that – CX-9 coming mid-year, we are nearly out of the old one.

“We literally have 100 or so left. And then we will get into the new one.

Playing off the success of CX-3 and CX-5, we have opportunity to do better in that large segment and we will certainly be trying.”

Mr Doak said Mazda would promote the new CX-9 through displays at shopping centres around Australia.

He ruled out putting its marketing budget into motoring festivals and shows such as MotorWorld Sydney or Melbourne's MotorClassica.

“Investment versus return, we think we are better off putting our money elsewhere,” he said.

“We are going to do some customer-facing activity with the CX-9 when it comes out. We haven’t done it before.

“We will probably end up in some of the biggest shopping centres around the country with CX-9. Those plans are pretty much locked in now so we will see how that goes, it's something we haven’t done before.”

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