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Mazda pushed into premium territory

High-end high-rider: After just two months on sale, Mazda’s CX-9 has hit a high, recording 738 sales last month – its best result ever.

Entry-level European offerings the target for Mazda sales and aftersales service

19 Sep 2016

MAZDA Australia is looking to lure buyers of premium marques to its range as more luxury car-makers expand their entry-level offerings and become more affordable.

The Japanese car-maker is hoping its updated Mazda6 range in particular will appeal to the user-chooser set in middle management that might typically favour European or other Japanese prestige brands.

Speaking at the launch of the refreshed mid-sizer in Melbourne last week, Mazda Australia managing director Martin Benders said there was a big opportunity that the company had not yet fully tapped to appeal to traditional European car buyers.

“Premiums are coming down to meet the non-premiums so we should really go up and meet them half way,” he said. “So for a business buyer where cost is an issue, we can offer a Mazda6 top-spec which, like for like, is significantly less expensive in total cost of ownership than maybe a C-Class or whatever. We will see how far their brand badge preference goes when reality comes to the fore.” Mr Benders acknowledged that the lure of a premium badge might be too strong for some buyers, but said he was confident of swaying a few buyers to the Japanese brand.

“My gut tells me that with some businesses, that cost difference will still over-rule badge preference. Not for everybody, some people will want European premium stuff.

“We still think there is an opportunity there to sell to those people that want that sort of vehicle, they want all the technology, but the price difference will still give us a little bit of an edge.” With Mazda seen as one of the more high-end mainstream offerings, Mr Benders said the company was well placed to at least be considered with its European premium counterparts, but acknowledged there was more work to be done.

“We have still got a long way to go in terms of being able to deliver exactly what the premiums do, they deliver some really nice stuff. But we are getting there. It might be better saying, rather a direct competitor, we are a legitimate alternative in the right circumstances.” Another Mazda model that could appeal to rusted-on European car buyers is its recently launched CX-9, which has already hit sales highs in its first few months on the market.

Last month Mazda recorded 738 CX-9 sales, the best monthly result since the large SUV arrived in Australia back in late-2007.

Mr Benders said the all-new version is exceeding expectations and added that demand should help maintain the healthy sales figures.

“It went up and then it has stabilised at about 170-200 a week which is pretty good. We said we would do about 600 a month. It’s probably doing a little bit better than that. We are happy. How long it will hold on depends on how much people will like it and it starts to build its own momentum. There is plenty of demand for it out there that’s for sure.” Mazda is also working on ways to make its aftersales and customer service experience more premium than its mainstream rivals.

The car-maker has performed strongly in the annual JD Power Customer Service Index Study that rates the service levels of the top mainstream brands in the country, but it fell to second place last year behind Honda after taking the top spot in 2014.

Mr Benders said being number one in the study was not a priority but added that the company was now investigating ways to further improve its service levels and to ensure it is seen as a viable alternative to premium offerings.

“We don’t look that closely at the JD Power thing,” he said.

“You can move up and down in those things depending on their sample but they all take fairly small sample questionnaires in their research. We would like to stay top two. But we are broadening our scope for all brands rather than just the non-premium brands so we are trying to raise the bar a little bit. We keep trying to find ways to take our dealers up that ladder.”

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