Mazda is currently looking to new models and improved awareness to earn a 2.5% percent market share in the U.S. by 2014.
Mazda’s senior vice president of U.S. operations, Robert David, races RX-8s and MX-5 Miatas for giggles in his spare time.
That being said, Mazda wishes to boost their U.S. sales to 400,000 vehicles by 2014. This ambitious goal would be a 74% gain over 2010 U.S. sales of 229,566 . This would be a HUGE milestone for the company, since Mazda has never sold 400,000 vehicles in its nearly 40 years in the USA.
And the company faces significant obstacles. For instance, Mazda is highly vulnerable to the profit-punishing strength of the Japanese yen. Japan-made vehicles account for 85 percent of its U.S. sales.
Whether it will assemble vehicles in the United States to offset the yen’s pressure is unclear. Mazda said in June that it will cease production of the Mazda6 at the AutoAlliance International assembly plant in Flat Rock, Mich., when the car’s life cycle ends, probably around 2012. The plant is Mazda’s 50-50 joint venture with Ford Motor and its only U.S. manufacturing center. A new 140,000-unit plant in Salamanca, Mexico, is scheduled to be producing small cars in 2013. That output, originally meant for Latin America, also may come to the United States, Mazda says.
Also, Mazda is moving away from sharing high-volume platforms with Ford. That means that Mazda has to shoulder the full cost of vehicle development. But Davis says the company is ready to boost sales.
“Our product strategy and what we have in the pipeline is going to allow us to grow,” he said. “What that market share becomes and what the total sales number becomes depends really on where the industry ends up, but we see our growth led by our ability to keep our current customers and attract the young customers that we’re already doing pretty well with.”
Here’s what Mazda executives see as the brand’s strengths:
— A dealer network with more exclusive stores and improving customer-experience ratings.
— Higher-quality vehicles with strong residuals.
— Lighter, more fuel-efficient vehicles that maintain performance and show a new design language.
— More aggressive and focused advertising with a new agency.
Next spring’s launch of the CX-5 compact crossover kicks off a wave of major updates to some of Mazda’s highest-volume vehicles.
A redesigned Mazda6 is expected by the end of 2012, followed by redesigns of the Mazda3, MX-5 Miata, and CX-9 in 2013.
The redesigned products will ride on new lightweight platforms with new gasoline and diesel power trains that boost power and fuel economy, a system that Mazda markets as its Skyactiv technologies. Mazda also plans to add stop-start, regenerative braking, and hybrid technologies by 2016.
The product push is noteworthy: the vehicle platform and power trains set for launch are the first to be developed solely by Mazda in decades.
Mazda currently uses platforms shared with Ford Motor for most of its vehicles. But Mazda has no plans to share its new platforms and power train technologies for U.S. vehicles with Ford, which until 2008 held a controlling stake in Mazda Motor. Ford has been selling down its Mazda stake since then.
The equity agreement and long-standing product alliance gave birth to platforms that the companies share today. But there were drawbacks.
For example, the shared compact car platform that underpinned the Mazda3 was very cost-effective, Takahisa Sori, Mazda’s global R&D boss, said during an interview through an interpreter.
“But the problem with that was we could only use that with C cars,” Sori said. “We couldn’t use it for C/D cars or any deviating models.”
Mazda now plans to use flexible architectures, developed in-house, which can be adjusted to underpin future generations of the Mazda3, Mazda6, CX-5, and even larger vehicles, Sori said.
“It might be that the cross-sectional areas will be slightly different and the gauges [of steel] will be different, but the basic principles will be the same,” Sori said. “This can be deployed to all models.”
The approach can cut development costs by 20 percent to 70 percent per vehicle, depending on the segment and the number of components that can be shared from other vehicles, Sori said.
Here’s to the next milestone of Mazda!