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Mazda ‘on plan’ for solid 2018 result

Keeping up: Mazda says it is happy with its BT-50 pick-up (left), while the CX-8 (below) has added incremental sales.

All-new CX-8, various model year updates to boost Mazda sales after early slip

Mazda logo29 May 2018

MAZDA Australia managing director Vinesh Bhindi is confident the forthcoming all-new CX-8 seven-seat SUV and a number of model year updates across its range will ensure Australia’s number-two brand recovers from the 4.1 per cent sales downturn recorded in the first four months of this year.
 
In an interview with GoAuto last week at the launch of the updated Mazda6 mid-size sedan and wagon range in Victoria, Mr Bhindi said the company was expecting to finish 2018 with about the same sales volume – 116,349 units – as last year.
 
This was a 1.6 per cent dip over its record 2016 result, but placed it clearly in second position behind runaway market leader Toyota (216,566) and third-placed Hyundai (97,013).
 
Toyota and Hyundai have both increased sales this year, up 7.0 and 4.9 per cent respectively, which sees the Korean brand gaining ground on Mazda – 30,700 units compared to 37,472 – as the latter finds itself in the unusual position of having almost every model in its line-up in negative territory compared to this time last year.
 
The one exception is the recently refreshed CX-5 mid-size SUV, up 2.3 per cent for the year to date, while other key models have posted mostly single-digit deceases, namely the Mazda2 light car (-5.5%), Mazda3 small car (-6.6%), CX-3 small SUV (-1.4%), CX-9 large SUV (-6.0%) and BT-50 ute (-3.0%).

The MX-5 has followed the typical sportscar sales trends with a significant drop-off a couple of years after launch, down 33.4 per cent so far this year, while the Mazda6 has also fallen 18.2 per cent.
 
Mr Bhindi said he expected Mazda’s overall sales to finish the year at “about the same” mark as 2017, but acknowledged that individual segments shift and may not match last year’s results.
 
“From our point of view we have still got CX-8 to join the stable, a few more updates on programs planned which I can’t talk about,” he said. 
 
“We do accept from time to time as the segments move, we may not have an offering in a particular segment, our numbers won’t match last year’s, but we have got new stuff coming. So we are ‘on plan’ at this stage.”
 
Mazda has this year launched updates for the MX-5 (including a special-edition variant), CX-5, BT-50 and Mazda6, with the last three launched within a five-week period.
 
The CX-8 seven-seat diesel-only SUV hits dealerships in July and will sit alongside the petrol-only CX-9. As GoAuto reported in March, leaked pricing information showed that it would be sold in two variants starting at just under $50,000 and topping out at about $68,000 driveaway.
 
Mr Bhindi would not be drawn on official details or sales targets for the CX-8, but suggested it would be competitive with similar diesel-powered offerings.
 
He also said there was no plan to follow rivals such as Hyundai, Kia and Ford and extend its factory warranty – whether on a temporary or permanent basis – in an effort to boost sales and customer satisfaction.
 
“In terms of other brands, they have their own strategy,” he said.
 
“We offer a warranty that is offered to us from the factory which is three years/unlimited kilometres. Others may use it as a tactical exercise to improve brand, improve position. It is not our intention to move from a three-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty.”
 
When asked if Mazda Australia had received any feedback from its dealers that customers were put off by the current warranty length, Mr Bhindi replied: “No. When we asked our customers, warranty is not the ‘top of the list’ issue when they are considering our brand.”
 
Mazda’s sales split between traditional passenger cars and SUVs is currently at 43:45 per cent respectively, while the BT-50 takes a 12 per cent share.
 
With such an even spread between SUVs and passenger cars, Mr Bhindi was asked if it was important for Mazda to maintain a balance across the segments, given some manufacturers were now heavily reliant on just one or two models for their sales.
 
“In the end, I look at it, that’s what the consumer wants,” he said.
 
“The consumer is not all focused on one or the other. We have a portfolio that is balanced but that is because the consumers desire that balanced product.
 
“We don’t want to be in a position to say, ‘If you want this brand, these are the only options, if you don’t like it we apologise and move on.’ That is not good business.”
 
While Mazda has, up until recently, maintained a relatively lean model line-up compared with many of its competitors, notably Toyota and Hyundai, Mr Bhindi said he was keen to add all-new models.
 
“It would be nice to have more. It is not need, it would be nice to have more. You have got to remember, Mazda in Australia has the most comprehensive offering, when you look at all of the nameplates,” he said. 
 
“Once we launch CX-8, no other major (Mazda) market has that comprehensive nameplate offering. So some would say you have got more than others, but it is always nice to have more.”
 
One model Mr Bhindi said he would have his hand up for is a halo sportscar to suit above the MX-5 in the company’s line-up.
 
“We would all love sportscars. We would love more cars. We pass on your desires, the customers’ desires, our desires to the right people at Mazda Corporation,” he said. 
 
While a sportscar based on the RX-Vision concept from the 2015 Tokyo motor show is believed to be in the works, nothing has been confirmed by Mazda in Japan.

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