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MX-5 update to boost sales, but only slightly

Iconic: The ND MX-5 has been a massive hit for Mazda, but sales are down by 44 per cent so far this year.

Sales unlikely to return to post-launch highs but Mazda confident of MX-5 interest

Mazda logo14 Sep 2018

MAZDA Australia does not expect the freshly updated MX-5 to return to the sales heights it enjoyed following the launch of the current ND series in 2015, pointing to a general downturn in the segment this year and the oft-seen ‘sportscar sales slump’ that occurs during a model’s lifecycle.
 
The updated version of the fourth-generation MX-5 hits showrooms this month and includes a power and torque boost to the 2.0-litre petrol engine, as well as minor tweaks to the cabin and additional safety gear.
 
Following the launch of the ND series in August 2015, sales of the rear-wheel-drive roadster shot up to 917 units that year, before skyrocketing 72 per cent to 1577 units in 2016. 
 
There was a slight 7.5 per cent drop to 1459 units in 2017, while this year Mazda has sold just 586 MX-5s to the end of August – down 43.9 per cent on the corresponding period last year. 
 
Mazda Australia marketing director Alastair Doak said he expected MX-5 sales to increase on the back of the updated model, but highlighted the history of sportscar sales dropping off significantly a couple of years into a model’s lifecycle.
 
“It will certainly go back up, but it’s really hard, you saw the whole sportscar segment is down,” he said. 
 
“It would be great if it went back up to that (launch volume) but I think history would show that every new sportscar loses a little bit each year. So it will go back up but we don’t expect it to go back up to that initial launch numbers.”
 
Mr Doak added that some people may have held off on buying a new MX-5 until the launch of this latest refresh, which is the second model year update for the sportscar this year.
 
“Obviously these people tend to be aware of updates coming. There have been rumours about this engine upgrade for a while now, so obviously people hold back a little bit waiting for it to come out. So now that it is here, that’s great,” he said. 
 
“We will do a new marketing campaign for the car which we are finalising now. So we will come out and talk about MX-5 again and sales will definitely improve from the current run rate.
 
“It would be ambitious to think it would go back to where it was when ND first came out. But, hey, if the demand is there we will have the supply so that’s okay.”
 
The sub-$80,000 sportscar segment in which the MX-5 competes is down 40.3 per cent so far this year, while the overall sportscar market in Australia has dropped by 33.7 per cent. 
 
Mr Doak said it was unlikely that concerns about the economy was having much of an impact on sportscar sales, but suggested that traditional sports coupes that dominate the segment were now competing against performance-focused SUVs and pick-ups.
 
“The fundamentals of the economy are still very strong. Unemployment is very low, interest rates are still very low. But there has been a tightening up on lending and those other things and that all has a little bit of a knock on,” he said. 
 
“I am not sure why the sportscar segment in particular has fallen, but maybe it is because there hasn’t been that many new models out. Our traditional sportscars these days are up against things you would have never considered – a sporty or fast SUV, whatever else there is. 
 
“There is just more choice out there and it is a combination of things.”
 
The number of models in the sub-$80,000 sportscar segment has virtually halved in only a few years, with just 11 offerings now compared with 20 in 2015.
 
The MX-5 is currently fourth in its segment behind the Ford Mustang (4202, -37.4%), BMW 2 Series (948, -24.2%) and Toyota 86 (688, -43.9%). 
 
For the updated version, Mazda is predicting a sales split of 70 per cent for the RF (Retractable Fastback) and 30 per cent for the Roadster.
 
Mr Doak said the company expected the RF to be the more popular body style following its launch early last year, but added that many buyers were still attracted to the soft-top.
 
“That’s what happened with the previous-generation NC. It ultimately became 100 per cent retractable hard-top back then. Will it go that way? Who knows? 
 
“At the moment the soft-top is there and will continue to be there. Again, for the MX-5 purists, that is still the ultimate expression of MX-5. So it is a key part of the range.”
 
Mr Doak said Mazda would celebrate the 30th anniversary of the launch of the original NA MX-5 next year, but would not disclose the company’s plans.
 
“I know that the local MX-5 clubs are very keen to get together and celebrate it so I am sure we will be assisting with those plans,” he said. 
 
“On a global scale, there will definitely be some celebrations and we will definitely be talking about it, but I am not in a position to disclose what they are. Obviously 30th anniversary is a significant milestone so I am sure we will embrace it.”

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