Operating in the burgeoning subcompact crossover market thatâ€™s soon to welcome new entries from Toyota and Ford, the still fresh Mazda CX-3 is already suffering from declining sales.
And the CX-3 is not declining from a particularly high and lofty point achieved earlier in its short lifecycle. There was no hot start for the Mazda CX-3, no early high-volume response to hyped-up demand from which sales would inevitably decrease.
Over the last three months, U.S. sales of the Mazda CX-3â€™s direct competitors have grown 21 percent, year-over-year. Yet sales of the CX-3 during the same period have declined 4 percent.
The Mazda CX-3 is a new model, only on sale for a year and a half. Itâ€™s attractive and highly regarded by reviewers. Yet sales are slowing at the very same time as sales of its competitors are flourishing.
Mazda doesnâ€™t intend to chase volume for volumeâ€™s sake, but Mazda does intend to get the CX-3 product mix right before the CX-3 is labelled a flop.
â€œInitial supplies were all higher trims with all-wheel drive, which is definitely more of an emphasis for driving higher transaction prices,â€� Mazda spokesperson Jacob Brown told TTAC last week.
Indeed, even now, two-thirds of the roughly 3,000 CX-3s in stock are all-wheel-drive models. All-wheel drive is a $1,250 option on each of the CX-3â€™s three trim levels.
Among the more popular competitors, slightly less than half of the Honda HR-Vs in stock are equipped with AWD. In fact, the CX-3â€™s AWD mix is even marginally higher than the AWD mix for the Jeep Renegade.
Moreover, approximately 40 percent of the CX-3â€™s on dealer lots are priced above $25,000, leaving only around 1,800 CX-3s on sale for less than $25,000. Honda has nearly 10,000 sub-$25K HR-Vs in stock.
But that AWD emphasis â€œdoesn’t help with volume in a price-sensitive class,â€� Brown says. â€œMost B-segment crossover shoppers are traditionally those who would have purchased C-segment cars.â€�
Mazda dealers have therefore been able to sell high-priced CX-3s, just not very many of them. In 2016, only 3.5 percent of the subcompact crossovers sold in the United States were CX-3s. Only the defunct Mini Paceman, transitioning Mini Countryman, and genuinely flopped Fiat 500X sold less often.
In January 2017, the second consecutive month of decline for Mazdaâ€™s entry-level crossover, CX-3 volume declined 14 percent and its market share slid to 3.1 percent.
Itâ€™s not as though the Mazda brand was trending downwards last month. January 2017 marked the brandâ€™s highest-volume January in five years, Mazda car volume grew 2 percent, and the larger CX-5 and CX-9 jumped 28 percent. Yet January was the lowest-volume full month for the CX-3 so far.
Mazda won’t suddenlyÂ determine that the CX-3 must become a high-volume contender. But, says Mazdaâ€™s Jacob Brown, â€œThere’s room to grow, and as more customers see how good CX-3 is, we hope to grow volume with them as well.â€�
In order to get those potential customers to more seriously consider a CX-3, Mazda needs more affordable CX-3s. â€œWe’re going to be adding more entry and mid-level CX-3s into the mix, as well as more with front-wheel drive, because there is room to grow where we have not carried much inventory in subsegments of B-CUV where it makes sense,â€� Brown told TTAC.
A more affordable CX-3 wonâ€™t soon become a more spacious CX-3. Surprisingly balanced ride and handling, a six-speed automatic that makes the most of the CX-3â€™s 146 horsepower, and tasteful styling still wonâ€™t be enough for everyone.
The Honda HR-V and Jeep Renegade â€” a pair of popular subcompact crossovers that outsell the CX-3 by four-to-one and six-to-one, respectively â€” can both carry people and stuff more effectively. The HR-V provides 11 percent more passenger volume and 61 percent more cargo volume than the CX-3; the Renegade offers 16 percent more people space and 28 percent more space for cargo.
But surely a subcompact Mazda crossover has the potential to outsell the Porsche Macan, Audi Q3, and Volvo XC60, three premium utility vehicles that generate more U.S. sales than the little Mazda.
Fortunately for Mazda, there is one key vehicle the higher-margin CX-3 manages to outperform. Between 2011 and 2014, the Mazda 2 that was indirectly replaced by this CX-3 averaged fewer than 15,000 annual U.S. sales.
Mazda sold 18,557 CX-3s in 2016.
Timothy Cain is the founder ofÂ GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. Follow on Twitter @goodcarbadcarÂ and on Facebook.