Last year, carmakers sold more than 1.8 million midsize sedans in the United States. That’s 155,000 per month; 5,095 per day; 212 per hour. It’s 3.53 per minute, even when the dealers are closed, the lights are off, and the salespeople are fast asleep, dreaming of silk ties and customers who show up in rental cars.
The Toyota Camry accounted for 22 percent of those sales, totaling nearly 405,000 units. The Honda Accord was 332,000 units, or 18 percent. And the Mazda6, admittedly competing as production of its second-generation model was winding down? Just 33,000 units. Only 1.8 percent.
But if you talk to Mazda, that’s just fine.
Of course, “fine” doesn’t mean “ideal.” Like all automakers these days, Mazda has its eye on sales numbers. But just an eye – a refreshing change from some brands, who only remember pesky little things like profit when the finance department calls and reminds everyone that’s why a company exists in the first place. To make a profit.
When you’re not hell-bent on sales volume, this funny little thing happens. You no longer have to appeal to everyone. Instead, you can do a pretty damn good job of honing in on satisfying your own customers. Forget the Camry buyers and the Malibu crowd. Mazda doesn’t even consider the Ford Fusion a Mazda6 competitor. Instead, the latest Mazda6 is simply an effort to turn the kind of people who buy a Mazda3 into the kind of people who buy a Mazda6.
With that goal in mind, it’s a direct hit.
Our man Derek Kreindler already covered the things that make the Mazda6 a great driving car, so I won’t go into detail. But beyond drivability, the Mazda6 is good for entirely different reasons. Like the fact that it brings sleek style and sporty substance to a segment sorely devoid of it. The last Mazda6 was a bulbous, rubbery effort to copy class leaders. It was a volume brand play, complete with front fenders borrowed from the McDonald’s arches.
But that was a mistake – a fact that would likely be recognized by everyone except Enterprise, who was just happy to have sedans that weren’t the Chrysler Sebring. Mazda cultivated its “Zoom Zoom” reputation on sportiness, and for once that car guy fantasy actually worked. Witness the Mazda3, undoubtedly the star of the segment and Mazda’s top seller. It turns out sporty can sell.
And using the Mazda3’s formula of sporty and stylish, the Mazda6 will indeed sell – especially among a group of cars that range from handsome to loathsome, but never sporty. Even the much-lauded Ford Fusion, raved about here and elsewhere, is no Mazda6 under intense cornering. Consider it: if even five percent of midsize sedan buyers prioritize “sporty,” Mazda has just tripled its market share.
But, you’ll argue, the Fusion has more power. So does the Accord; the Malibu. Even the Camry, which everyone knows is no excitement machine. So why doesn’t the Mazda6 have a V6?
I have two theories here. One: it doesn’t need it. On the road, I’m consistently surprised that every Sonata I see is a 2.4-liter, every RSX is a base model, every Mustang is a V6. The truth is, everyone loves the idea of a Camry that hits 60 in six seconds, but when it comes time to write the check, you’d actually rather save the money: at the dealer and at the pump; when trading it in, and when buying insurance.
My second theory is a little more comforting to those that actually do buy the Mustang GT, the RSX Type-S and the Sonata 2.0T. You know, the automotive one percent. To them, I say: Mazda will probably acquiesce to the pressure. Maybe it won’t be a V6, but I’d expect a turbo four. Either way, don’t be surprised if a more powerful Mazda6 is on the way.
But it doesn’t really need it. Because even in its current form, the latest Mazda6 is good enough to capture a much larger chunk of the market than 1.8 percent. Not that Mazda’s watching.
Doug DeMuro operates PlaysWithCars.com. He’s owned an E63 AMG wagon, roadtripped across the US in a Lotus without air conditioning, and posted a six-minute laptime on the Circuit de Monaco in a rented Ford Fiesta. One year after becoming Porsche Cars North America’s youngest manager, he quit to become a writer. His parents are very disappointed.