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Mazda Oz taps nostalgia as Mazda3 sales shrink

3’s company: Mazda has celebrated 40 years of its small-car offerings by bringing together six heritage cars, and its current Mazda3, in a special drive event.

Heritage small cars including the 323 and Mazda3 used in latest ad campaign


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16 Jun 2017

THE shift in buyer preference from passenger cars to SUVs has forced Mazda Australia to revise its expected Mazda3 year-end sales total as the brand leverages nostalgia and its heritage 323 cars in a bid to boost sales.

Speaking at a special heritage drive event to celebrate 40 years of Mazda small cars in Mount Cotton, Queensland, Mazda Australia managing director Vinesh Bhindi said Mazda3 sales were trending downwards as customer tastes sway towards SUVs.

“If you look at the small-car segment numbers this year, like all passenger car segments, it is showing a declining trend,” he said. “Year-to-date, it (small-car segment) has come off 2.6 per cent and Mazda3 is down 8.9 per cent.

“This is no surprise as buyer’s preference shifts to SUV offerings. You could argue that not so long ago, large cars were in demand, then followed by the medium-sized cars and now we are experiencing a shift towards SUVs.

“As CX-3 and CX-5 get a strong hold in the market, we do expect to see the adjustments to the Mazda3 sales plan.”

For the first five months of the year, the Mazda3 has emerged as Australia’s second-favourite vehicle in the sub-$40,000 small-car market with 14,562 sales, trailing the Toyota Corolla on 15,624.

Speaking with GoAuto, Mr Bhindi said he still expects the Mazda3 to finish the year with between 30,000 and 35,000 sales, down from the 36,107 sales total it managed in 2016.

“Mazda3 is still very strong for us – we plan to be above 30,000, closer to 35 – and that’s where we see the opportunity, but in the end we also have SUVs which are also in demand,” he said.

“If a customer choses to go from a passenger car to an SUV, it’s not a major issue… whether an SUV provides them that lifestyle choice or space or just because that’s fashionable to buy or giving them that safety perception – it doesn’t matter they have their own reasons.

“We’re happy with our results on both sides of the fence, whether it be passenger cars or SUVs.”

However, Mazda is rolling out a new advertising campaign featuring heritage footage of its Mazda3 predecessor, the 323, in a bid to raise the profile of its small car.

Mazda Australia public relations specialist Tony Mee told GoAuto the television commercial highlights the legacy of the Japanese car brand’s top-selling car.

“I suppose when you think of Mazda, you think of rotary and justifiably so, but we do have a very strong heritage when it comes to small passenger cars,” he said.

“It started in 1960 with the R360 progressing through to the 600, 800, 1000 and so forth before the 323 came along. So if there’s another side of the business that Mazda is known for, it’s our small passengers cars.”

Vehicles on hand at the special drive event included a 1980 323 hatchback, 1991 Astina SP hatch, 1996 Astina V6, 2001 Astina SP20 and 2005 first-generation Mazda3.

Overall, Mazda 323 sales in Australia totalled 238,530 between its release in 1977 and its discontinuation in 2003 to make way for the Mazda3 – which has recorded 489,763 new registrations since.

Prior to the release of the 323, Mazda’s small-car sales tallied 98,365.

Mr Mee revealed that the restored vehicles came from Mazda’s heritage collection housed at the brand’s headquarters in Melbourne, and that the potential for more events centred around historic vehicles would be considered.

“Look there’s always opportunity,” he said. “We did it last year with the fourth-gen drive with MX-5 which was really successful and people enjoyed driving the NA, B, C and D back-to-back.

“If there was an opportunity to do it with other nameplates whether it Mazda6 – because that’s been around for a while now and we do have some Mazda6s in our heritage collection – we’d be open to it.

“It’s not something you do every year, but where there’s an opportunity and where it makes sense, then yes.”

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