Critical Praise Ignored, Mazda 3 Sales Keep Falling
“It’s the one to have,” we said of the 2017 Mazda 3 on the last day of November, “but not the one you’ll buy.”
Pat TTAC on the back for such an accurate forecast, as the very next day, Mazda revealed that Americans acquired fewer Mazda 3s in November 2016 than at any point since January 2014, a 34-month low.
With the worst U.S. sales results in nearly three years, Mazda USA’s most popular car is now on track to potentially see annual volume fall to a decade low in 2016.
There’s nothing new about the American car buyer’s prerogative to avoid critical advice when it comes to Mazda’s compact sedan. The degree to which the Mazda-supporting suggestion is ignored, however, is, increasingly apparent.
Year-over-year, November 2016 sales plunged 14 percent to only 6,388 units.
U.S. sales of the Mazda 3 have now declined in ten of 2016’s eleven complete months, including each of the last seven.
Mazda’s share of the compact category is down to 4.6 percent through 2016’s first 11 months, down from 6.2 percent four years ago, when the previous-generation Mazda 3 was nearing the end of its tenure.
Eight compact cars — and 20 cars overall — sell more often in America than the Mazda 3. The 3’s 11-percent rate of decline is significantly worse than the compact category average; worse than the overall car market’s 9-percent fade, as well.
What’s the problem?
Besides the issues with the car, which the buying public clearly consider to be bigger issues than the automotive press believes, Mazda’s long-term plans do not support a short-term fix.
The issues a potential customer has with a car can be overcome. All it takes is cash on the hood.
Mazda doesn’t want to play that game.
“Mazda continues to maintain low incentives with our ‘Right Price Strategy’ that came into its own with the current-generation products,” Mazda spokesperson Jacob Brown told TTAC earlier this week.
Mazda has an issue with customer retention. To make matters worse, all Mazda needs to do is cut prices on the Mazda 3 in November, sell more cars, and drag down resale values for current owners of the Mazda 3.
But, Brown says, “We’re going to maintain our pricing strategy to bolster that value for our customers.”
Mazda also touts its knack for selling luxuriously equipped models, particularly those with a full suite of i-ActiveSense safety features. “Mazda has among the highest average transaction prices in the C-segment,” Brown says, while also noting the Mazda customer’s willingness to opt for that safety suite and a manual transmission.
“We found that many of our shoppers wanted both the manual transmission and all the top-level features without compromise,” Brown tells TTAC. “About 15 percent of Mazda 3 sales are with manual transmission, and many skew toward mid- or high-trims.”
Mazda is on track this year to sell fewer than 100,000 3s in the United States for the first time since 2009. Fortunately for Mazda, while the 3 operates in a sector that may offer little room for growth in the near future, the company is operating with increasing success on the crossover side of the ledger.
U.S. sales of the new Mazda CX-9 have risen 27 percent in the last six months, though it remains a niche model in its category. (Mazda sold 1,994 CX-9s in November; Toyota sold a record-high 21,241 Highlanders during the same period.)
Likewise, the Mazda CX-3 is a low-volume contender among subcompact crossovers — seven competitors are more common. But CX-3 sales have risen 25 percent over the last four months, the only months in which year-over-year figures are available. And two-thirds of the CX-3s sold in America leave the factory in higher-profit all-wheel-drive form.
Meanwhile, the Mazda CX-5 is on track for its fourth consecutive year of growth. (Mazda now sells more than 11 CX-5s for every 10 Mazda 3s.) Brown says, “The 2017 CX-5 will undoubtedly build on that momentum.”
If only the 3 had momentum to build upon, as well.
Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. Follow on Twitter @goodcarbadcar and on Facebook.
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