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LA show: Mazda looks to Australian success

Top job: Mazda’s Australian dealers have been praised by the company’s president and CEO Akira Marumoto.

Mazda Australia’s performance a winner as brand talks up premium aspirations

Mazda logo3 Dec 2018

By TIM NICHOLSON in LOS ANGELES

MAZDA is looking to emulate the brand’s Australian success in other markets as it repositions itself as a more premium volume car-maker.
 
As the number two automotive brand in Australia by sales – behind Toyota – and with a market share of 9.7 per cent, Australia is seen as one of Mazda’s most successful and important markets.
 
According to Mazda Motor Corporation (MMC) managing executive officer and head of design and brand style Ikuo Maeda, it is Mazda Australia’s dealer network and its treatment of its customers that have helped elevate the brand Down Under.  
 
“Our market share in Australia is pretty close to our market share in our home town of Hiroshima,” he told Australian journalists at last week’s Los Angeles motor show.
 
“For Japan, nationwide our share is three to four per cent. We have an overwhelmingly higher share in Hiroshima. “It is because in Hiroshima there are so many people who love Mazda that live there.
 
“The same thing applies to Australia, actually. Our Mazda dealers take good care of Mazda fans. I think the key point is, how close can we be, as a brand, with customers?”
 
Mazda’s US market share is less than two per cent, its Canadian share is double that at just under four per cent, and its European share is about 1.7 per cent.
 
MMC president and CEO Akira Marumoto also said that the positive elements of the Australian business “should be learned and spread globally”.
 
Mr Marumoto added that for the company to increase its global market share, it had to focus on good business practices, as proven by the Australian market.
 
“Volume shouldn’t come first,” he said. “What is most important is business quality, sincere handling of customers on the sales front. In terms of management, we should reduce incentives, and we should rely on trustworthy relationships when we sell vehicles to customers.
 
“If we prepare enough (model) line-up and global dealers become like Australian Mazda dealers, then at the end, automatically, the sales volume will grow.
 
“If I give the sales volume target to the sales and marketing people, then they regard that as first priority and I don’t like it.”
 
However, both executives said the company was keen to be seen by consumers as a more premium product.
 
Mr Marumoto said that a premium brand image did not necessarily mean its cars would become significantly more expensive.
 
“Maybe the definition of premium, the terms might be different from yours and mine,” he said. “When we say premium at Mazda, we mean that through product, sales and service, we form a strong bond with the customer. 
 
“We want to be that kind of brand, so that means we are the closest brand to the customer. That is what we mean by premium.
 
“Therefore, unlike the German three (Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz), we do not have the intention to develop very expensive products.”
 
Mr Maeda also said the definition of premium was “different from German premiums” and there were other ways to elevate the brand image in the eyes of the customer.
 
“We have to raise the level of craftsmanship and the design quality of course. On top of that, we have to deliver the standalone originality unique to Mazda. 
 
“In that sense, our biggest weapon is the beauty of the form of the design, so we would like to sharpen this beauty more. I am hoping that the people say, ‘this is premium’, looking at this beauty.”

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