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Mazda prices to stay put

Main men: Mazda's soon-to-be global chairman Seita Kanai (left) and Mazda Australia managing director Martin Benders.

Australian MD clarifies upcoming global chairman’s remarks about Mazda pricing

Mazda logo13 Jun 2014

By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS

MAZDA AUSTRALIA has sought to clarify remarks made by upcoming chairman Seita Kanai regarding higher prices as a result of a concerted push upmarket.

Widely reported last week, including in GoAuto, after an international press conference in Japan, Mr Kanai described it as “an effort” to keep prices where they currently are.

Mr Kanai said this was due, in part, to the cost pressures of rolling out the advanced SkyActiv technologies that have – in his opinion – put Mazda on a par with more upmarket brands.

According to Mazda Australia managing director Martin Benders, Mr Kanai was talking in the broader sense about Mazda’s positioning globally, where the brand does not enjoy anywhere near the amount of market share or profile as it does in Australia.

As a result, nothing will change in terms of comparative pricing or positioning for Australia.

Mazda’s year-to-date market share in Australia is 9.6 per cent, compared to 5.2 per cent in Japan, 4.1 per cent in Canada, 1.8 per cent in the United States and just 1.1 per cent in Europe – though the latter figure is the average across the continent.

“We’re not planning to move out of the non-premium segment,” Mr Benders told GoAuto.

“We’re trying to position ourselves where we are, but with an even better product range.

“Long ago Kanai helped set Mazda on a path where we challenge the premiums in terms of quality… and that’s basically been his mission all along.

Mr Benders said Mazda was aiming for a broad model range covering major segments in Australia, and that, coincidentally, many buyers chose higher spec variants.

“Mazda Australia has been trying to position the brand as desirable, appealing, whatever you want… as opposed to our (direct competition). So when we talk premium we’re not actually talking pricing what we’re saying is that we want to offer a car for discerning people who would otherwise buy within the non-premium brands.” “And the outcome of all that is that we will have a model across all the price points in every major segment, but as we appeal to people who find our cars more desirable, they tend to buy the upper end of the range rather than the bottom end of our range… as opposed to Toyota or Hyundai.

“So that does give us a premium – if you look at our average prices and their average prices, they are quite a bit different.

“So that’s what we’re talking about. If they could afford to buy premium maybe they would buy a premium car – I don’t know. Maybe that’s where badge comes into it.

“They buy us because they know they’ll get a better car than average in each segment.

Mr Benders said pricing for its top-selling Mazda3 small car was exactly where it should be an that buyers are responding positively to its positioning.

“We haven’t had one complaint about where we have priced the new Mazda3 since its launch… we price where we need to price. Our focus is going to be to maintaining as good a mix as possible, and we’ll do that buy offering one of the best option available.

“And that covers styling and technology and ride and handling and all those things that are important to people that are more knowledgeable about what car is available in each segment.” Giving Mr Kanai’s quotes some context, he began the press conference with a story of how, as a young engineer used to testing vehicles in speed-limited Japan in the late 1970s, he found a 1980 Mazda 626 Hardtop Series II frighteningly unstable when driven flat out in Germany.

The white-knuckle experience changed the way Mazda vehicles have been engineered since then, in order for them to feel as secure as a contemporary BMW and Mercedes-Benz on the autobahn.

“The 626 Hardtop… it made my palms sweat,” Mr. Kanai said. “So I pledged to make a vehicle that matched BMW and Benz.” He began with Mazda in 1974 and worked on the design and engineering of the suspension system of the first front-wheel drive 626/Capella range in 1982.

Later on Mr Kanai became the program manager for the first Mazda6 (2002 GG), and went on to run the research and development unit from 2005.

He becomes Mazda Motor Corporation chairman from July this year.

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