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Mazda Wants 2 Percent U.S. Market Share, but Not Just Any Ol’ 2 Percent Market Share

2016 Mazda CX-9 - Image: Mazda“I am not comfortable with 2 percent. I’m comfortable with a good 2 percent.”
– Masahiro Moro, President and CEO, Mazda North American Operations

Mazda’s U.S. market share fell to a 10-year low in 2016 and hasn’t noticeably recovered in the first four months of 2017. A small lineup with no presence in key segments limits Mazda’s chances of becoming a major automaker.

But Mazda doesn’t want to be a major automaker. Mazda wants to be a small but profitable automaker with profitable dealers and loyal buyers.

Mazda also wants to carry greater sway in the U.S. market than it does at the moment. Only slightly. Fractionally more. Marginally, almost imperceptibly more. Only 1.7 percent of the new vehicles sold in the United States are Mazdas. Mazda wants 2 percent, surely a reasonable and easily attainable goal.

But Mazda’s North American boss, Masahiro Moro, has no intention of jumping up to that 2-percent marker rashly or hastily.

Moro wants a good 2-percent share of the U.S. auto industry, not a 2-percent figure grabbed with lofty incentives and stair-step programs and short-term gains.

Mazda is in desperate need of more loyal customers, and ruining the resale values of on-the-road Mazdas with ultra-low prices on new 3s and 6s won’t do existing customers any favors.2017 Mazda 6 - Image: MazdaAutomakers average 53 percent loyalty, Automotive News reports, but Mazda’s brand loyalty was just 39 percent last year. As a result, Mazda is far too reliant on earning business at the expense of rival automakers rather than on the back of Mazda’s own success.

Mazda hasn’t owned more than 2 percent of the U.S. market since 1994, when Mazda’s annual volume was 26-percent higher than it is now. In fact, 1994’s 2.5-percent result ended an 11-year streak in which Mazda earned more than 2 percent of the U.S. market’s annual volume. Ever since, Mazda has averaged 1.7 percent market share, falling just a tick below the 2-percent marker in the midst of the recession, from 2008-2011.

Mazda wants more affluent customers to pay higher prices for its existing products while also carving out a more premium image for each new model introduction, in the vein of the second-generation CX-9. The majority of CX-9 customers choose one of the two top trim levels, Grand Touring and Signature, which sticker above $41,000 and $45,000, respectively. Granted, this hasn’t made the CX-9 a powerhouse on the three-row family crossover leaderboard, but that was never Mazda’s intention. The new CX-9 is on track for its best sales year since 2011.

Mazda says the annual household income for a Mazda buyer has risen to $93,000, a 16-percent increase over the last half-decade.

Until Mazda’s entire product lineup represents the brand’s new Mazda Premium strategy, Masahiro Moro has no intention to chase after the modest 2-percent goal. Moreover, Moro told Automotive News that the fulfillment of this strategy will take, “at least 10 years,” though the 2-percent figure could be achieved much sooner.

Mazda sales climbed to a 21-year high in the U.S. in 2015 but then slid to a three-year low in 2017. Through the first quarter of 2017, Mazda rose 7 percent, a gain of more than 4,000 sales thanks to improvements across much of the lineup, even the Mazda 6. April sales, however, slipped 8 percent because of sharp decreases from the Mazda 3, Mazda 6, and Mazda CX-3. Utility vehicles now account for more than half of Mazda’s U.S. volume.

The CX-5, Mazda’s best-selling model, is America’s 20th-best-selling SUV/crossover. The Mazda 3 is America’s 23rd-best-selling car.2006 Mazda B-Series - Image: MazdaBut those two vehicles account for nearly seven out of every ten Mazda sales, with the brand’s other products operating as niche vehicles in smaller segments.

Masahiro Moro acknowledges that Mazda is a non-entity in more than 40 percent of America’s market segments, creating a real challenge if Mazda is to ever attain its 2 percent goal.

A good 2 percent goal.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net and a contributing analyst at The Truth About Cars and Autofocus.ca. Follow on Twitter @timcaincars.

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