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The Sky isn’t the limit

By / 8 years ago / Interview / No Comments

As you might have seen earlier in this issue, Mazda is at a watershed: its range is almost about to be replaced in its entirety over the next couple of years, by cars with significantly lower emissions, and hopefully, considerably more style.

European president and CEO Jeff Guyton is perfectly placed to see the change, and he reckons that for UK fleets, the firm will become a major force as a result.

‘Our sales in the UK have been tremendously beaten down, especially where we’ve not done well in the fleet sector, although we have a stronger share in the private sector,’ he admits.

‘The strength of the Yen has made it difficult especially with the discounts some other brands are giving, but the great thing about this new Skyactiv Technology is that it is less costly to build, so we will see an improvement in our business model and the ability to trade as a result of much improved product. So although its sounds perverse to say, CX-5 for example is much more profitable, yet sells at a lower price point than CX-7 because of the cost of the technology to build, which is head and shoulders better.

‘So that is rolling out across our range, and that’s a big piece of how we intend to make the business more profitable. The good thing that I see is that Skyactiv Technology is underpinning all the successive models in the next few years, so you have this fundamental technology which is the next step in Mazda’s evolution, and so the proposition is going to be very strong.

‘At this moment our product lineup is as old as it is ever going to be and I see very competitive cars coming, so even though the industry says it is going to be very challenging, I see growth.’

Guyton is confident the brand will see growth on the back of new product, starting with the CX-5 and then the new Mazda6.

‘I think versus today’s Mazda6 we’ll see an uplift in sales, no question, and in a European context the current 6 has a 3% market share, but previously we have done, depending on the market, a 6-12% share with it and I don’t see any reason why this car shouldn’t do that again.’

In the UK, nearly 80% of sales for the Mazda6 are to fleet, but that equates to only a 5% market share, and Guyton believes this can be improved.

He says: ‘We have a strong CO2 story, will have good RVs, very affordable monthly rates and low BiK, so the recipe for this car is very similar to the successful recipe in the market today.

‘We haven’t talked about pricing yet, but ethos is not about big discounts. Buyers will recognise that we don’t typically do the huge discounting but the overall proposition will be strong.’

Low costs are a result of economy boosting Skyactiv Technology. Although Guyton would not be drawn on exactly what fleets can expect, it is thought that the diesel engine will deliver 109g/km at its highest level, and remarkably may go even lower still. But even so, he is keen for the brand not to get too hung up on Skyactiv for fear of putting the cart before the horse, so to speak.

‘Actually, what I want people to think first and foremost is about Mazda, not Skyactiv. What you find is most consumers don’t know what puredrive, ecomotion, or any such eco brand is. They know it’s something, and they think its eco-based but they don’t know what it stands for. What I want them to think when they hear Mazda is that it stands for stylish, insight, great performance and fuel efficiency in a lovely package. And if we get there through Skyactiv then great, but I don’t need them to know what Skyactiv actually is.

‘Although it’s very difficult to convey this message, and we’re only at the start, the technical premise of the new 6 is that it’s fantastic to drive, with more power but at the same time best-in-class fuel economy, and with great safety.

‘How do we uphold our Defy Convention mantra with this? Well, the way to go about it is that the Mazda6 has a relatively large displacement 2.2-litre diesel engine with a lot of torque, that’s against the current downsizing trend, and that’s not conventional. And so what we’re going to try and say is that you can have your cake and eat it and you don’t have to sacrifice one thing or the other for lower company car tax.’

Mazda has sold more than 120,000 6s in the UK since the car was launched in 2002, and Guyton says the new model offers a real opportunity to get the brand moving: ‘There are so many company car drivers who have had a Mazda6 in the past. Now is our opportunity to go and talk to them about the car, and get them into Mazda again.’ 

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Steve Moody

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