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New York show: Hopes fade for Mazda CX-4

Made in China: The CX-4 (Koeru concept pictured) has been developed for the massive Chinese market as a replacement for the first-generation Mazda6.

Australian debut unlikely for Mazda CX-4 as the company focuses on Chinese market

29 Mar 2016

MAZDA is unlikely to offer the sleek CX-4 crossover in Australia any time soon, with the company confirming it will be a China-only model for the foreseeable future.

The Japanese car-maker previewed the CX-4 with the Koeru concept at last year’s Frankfurt motor show, and earlier this month confirmed the production version will be uncovered at the Beijing show in April.

Mazda says it has developed the CX-4 for the massive Chinese market, where the company is hoping to increase its market share and recapture some of the younger buyers it attracted to the first-generation Mazda6.

That model, which was replaced in Australia in early 2008, is still being built at Mazda joint-venture partner FAW’s plant in north-eastern China for the Chinese market.

The second- and third-generation versions are also sold there as the Mazda6 Ruiyi and Mazda6 Atenza respectively.

Mazda North American Operations president and CEO and Mazda Motor Corporation managing executive officer Masahiro Moro said that while the current Mazda6 is doing “decent business” in China, the first-generation model “was a very big hit” and the company needs another “key business pillar” in that market, which he believes is the CX-4.

“I think CX-4 will play a very important role in China,” he told Australian journalists at the New York motor show last week.

“And in China, that younger generation of customer is looking for a crossover-type vehicle. So CX-4 is a replacement of the first generation of Mazda6.

“This is an urgent business need for China. Globally, we still need to consider where we build (CX-4). Because with that Chinese production, all suppliers are in China. Exporting the vehicle from China is … difficult.

“And also CX-3 and CX-5, do we have a space in between? I don’t think so.

“CX-4 itself doesn’t fit to other countries’ portfolio.”

The CX-4 sits between the CX-3 and CX-5 SUVs and shares a platform with the latter and the Mazda3. Design-wise the Koeru looks like a slightly high-riding version of the Mazda3 but with more SUV styling flourishes.

Asked if there were plans to expand sales of the CX-4 beyond China to Europe or Australia, Moro-san said the company would wait to evaluate its acceptance in China.

“At this moment I want to see how CX-4 is performing in China. Usually, if we build a car in Hiroshima or Hofu (Japan plants) it is going to be a global model. Building in China, local production with local partner, it is a different business model,” he said.

Mazda Australia marketing director Alastair Doak said the CX-4 has been assessed for a possible Australian launch, but added that a number of key factors have made it difficult to justify at the moment.

“It’s certainly something we have looked at,” he told GoAuto in New York. “I think the consensus would be that we would want it to be a slightly different vehicle in terms of some of its spec, powertrain etc versus what will go on sale in China.

“They are the kind of conversations and once you start playing with that level of spec it becomes a reasonably complicated engineering investment at that point. So then you have to obviously justify volume etc. It is not off the agenda entirely but it would be pretty difficult to bring it into Australia.”

Asked to elaborate on the sort of specification that would better suit the Australian market, Mr Doak said the car-maker “would like to take it a little further upmarket”.

“That then adds a level of significant complication than just signing up for it and taking it,” he said.

Mr Doak acknowledged that while Mazda Australia has some influence with its Japanese parent company thanks to its hugely successful sales strategy, it would require more markets to push for a global version of the car to bring the CX-4 to market.

“It certainly gets us in the door to have the conversation but ultimately it comes down to volume versus investment and unless some of the other bigger markets around the world get on board, it makes it very hard,” he said.

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