By on January 26, 2017

Robert Davis - Image: Mazda USA

Mazda’s U.S. senior vice president for operations has been reassigned to a role in special assignments.

It does not appear to be a promotion.

Robert Davis, who held the position for more than half a decade, will no longer oversee all operations but will rather “lead teams in the ever-growing areas of recall compliance and cybersecurity, ” as well as legislation, regulations, and compliance.

Preaching patience, Mazda’s North American CEO Masahiro Moro revealed just last summer that, “it will take Mazda two complete generations of new vehicles to fully transform itself.”

Patience may have waned, however, as the U.S. auto industry surged to an all-time record sales high in 2016 and Mazda volume tumbled 7 percent, driving the brand’s market share down to just 1.7 percent.

That was no way to successfully follow-up 2015’s performance, when Davis-led Mazda USA grew volume to a 21-year high.

2016 certainly had potential for Mazda, with a new MX-5 Miata picking up steam, a highly regarded replacement for the CX-9 after the first-generation was allowed to linger for nearly a decade, and a full calendar year for the new CX-3.

But the MX-5 is a niche player. The CX-9‘s ramp-up has been slow; only twice did Mazda report more than 2,000 monthly CX-9 sales in 2016, a feat the automaker accomplished six times with the thoroughly outdated first-gen CX-9 in 2013. And the CX-3, despite explosive growth in the subcompact crossover segment, hasn’t caught fire.

The bigger problem, of course, is that Mazda’s car sales plunged. While the symptoms are similar across the market, industry-wide volume was down 9 percent. Mazda’s already-small car lineup slid 14 percent compared with 2015. The Mazda 3 and Mazda 6 combined to lose nearly 25,000 sales.

Added to the 53-year-old Davis’s new role will be the coaching of a next generation of executives. Masahiro Moro said these changes are occurring so Mazda can “seize more than our fair share of this market shift,” and “to mentor new leaders and give those leaders a chance to play a part in the next chapter of the company’s success in the U.S.”

Moro says he will be “leaning heavily on Robert Davis to tap into his nearly 30 years of Mazda experience.”

Meanwhile, Mazda’s Ron Stettner, who was the vice president for sales and retail operations, has left the company. His replacement is Tom Donnelly. All of the changes are effective immediately.

A replacement for Robert Davis has not yet been announced.

When Davis was installed in as senior vice president for U.S. operations, Mazda’s then-North American CEO Jim O’Sullivan, said the organization was being reshaped “to fully realize Mazda’s U.S. growth potential in the next few years.”

O’Sullivan retired at the end of 2015.

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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55 Comments on “Mazda USA Senior VP Robert Davis ‘Reassigned’ After A Rough 2016...”


  • avatar
    philadlj

    “Driving Matters”…but apparently so do “sales.”

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      Mazda paradox. Best cars that sell worst. I think, the problem is that people cross-shopping and when they do, Toyonda can give better price than Mazda. I for one, care-less if Mazda cost an extra grand because I know why I am paying it. I don’t want this lame Toyota. But for most people having precise steering doesn’t mean much.

      • 0 avatar
        Nick_515

        same her slavuta. i’d take the mazda in a split second.

      • 0 avatar
        Jimal

        The pricing difference between similar Honda, Toyota and Mazda sedans isn’t that big. The big difference comes when you buy used; Mazdas depreciate more, which is why we’re picking up a CPO MAZDA6 Grand Touring on Monday to replace our Passat TDI, which was significantly less expensive than a comparably equipped Accord or Camry.

        • 0 avatar
          slavuta

          Jimal, you simply wrong. Mazda will never sell you a car with 25% off MSRP. Toyonda will, especially Camry

          • 0 avatar
            Jimal

            Not sure where you draw that conclusion. I’m basing my observation off an apples-to-apples comparison of MSRPs, not negotiated prices, which are going to vary by region and dealer.

  • avatar
    VoGo

    I can understand Mazda’s frustration with US sales. They have great product, at least from all the reveiws and carmag lore, but sales have not followed. If it were up to me, I’d focus the brand as the one with crossovers that are fun to drive.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      I’m sure the Mazda people will start pelting me with zoom zoom, but the only compelling product offered is MX-5. I can buy everything else Mazda sells from multiple vendors and get better product for similar or less cost (and resale). Why am I buying Mazda, style? Heritage? Rustproofing?

      • 0 avatar
        VoGo

        I kind of agree. Whenever I have driven the 6 and Accord back-to-back, I admire the Mazda’s driving feel, but why should I take a chance on Mazda resale value when I know that there will always be strong demand for a used Accord?

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          I am of a similar opinion. I can’t even suggest to Mazda “oh you should be RWD” because as much as that might be compelling, it wouldn’t make a difference IMO. Maybe if they being back the Eunos?

      • 0 avatar
        Funky

        I’m not an expert and, as a customer, I don’t have as much experience with the resale value of Mazdas as I do with Volvos (because I’ve owned fewer Mazdas). However, so far, I’ve had much better luck with the resale value of my Mazdas than I’ve had with my Volvos. To me, that counts for something. It would be interesting to see some data on how Mazdas fair relative to Chevy, Ford, Honda, Toyota, as well as Audi, Volvo, Mercedes Benz, in addition to Infiniti, Acura, and Lexus.

        • 0 avatar
          VoGo

          Edmunds used to allow you to compare projected resale costs pretty easily. That site has gone downhill so much lately, I’m not sure what they still offer.

          I would also add that comparing a near luxury car like a Volvo with a mainstream Mazda may not be apples-to-apples. In general, more luxurious cars tend to depreciate more quickly.

      • 0 avatar
        slavuta

        and I disagree that you can buy things as good as Mazda from other vendors. Although I agree that you can buy cheaper products. Mazda is driver’s joy. there is nothing better than feel-good mood when you enjoy driving your machine. You can save a grand but you will quickly forget joy of saving it. Mazda will remind you every day that there is joy in driving it.

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        Driving feel, style, and the ability to boast “I’m supporting a SMALL indie car company!”, on the used market they cane be a decent bargain, but otherwise I agree that you can get better stuff elsewhere.

        • 0 avatar
          stuki

          You know you’re in the company of nerds, when you can boast about driving a Mazda, and have people understand what you are talking about….

          I like Mazdas. They generally don’t lease as well as the corresponding T or H, due to less certain value retention. Kind of sad that even self proclaimed “enthusiasts” are so in hock to the banksters that this matters, but until we catch up with Japan in the credit cycle, thems the cards all makes are dealt in the US today. And now increasingly even in Europe.

          A “driver’s car” that is neither fast nor a status symbol, is another concept that doesn’t translate too well to the current West. Here, “sports cars” as a group are supposed to be some sort of virility or wealth or career display. As fast as possible when driven by a rockstar around the ‘Ring. And preferably expensive enough to signal something about the driver’s wallet.

          Not merely optimized for providing the greatest possible driving experience when driven by regular drivers on the regular roads they drive most of the time. Something that doesn’t take much neither in the way of power, grip, ‘Ring times nor suitability for “the track.”

    • 0 avatar
      Jimal

      I’ve been in two Mazda dealers recently (we’re buying a CPO MAZDA6). One looked like it hadn’t been renovated since the 70s and the other, while only a couple years old, was tiny and lacked the ambiance that the bigger players have. Our local Subaru dealer for example, recently opened a veritable cathedral. They also sell more than 200 units per month.

  • avatar
    Cactuar

    Management at Mazda are probably looking at Subaru and asking their VP why they aren’t as successful. It’s a good question and I’m not sure how Mazda can mimic Subaru’s success. Other than driving enjoyment (which not enough people care for) Mazda cars aren’t anything special. It’s a tough nut to crack and it’ll be interesting to see how they attempt to boost sales.

    • 0 avatar
      WheelMcCoy

      Subaru assuages drivers’ anxiety of getting stuck in snow or mud, and skidding on ice. It’s easier to sell on that rather than on “fun-to-drive.”

      I’m with @Funky below that Mazdas are something special and more than just fun-to-drive. Many automakers just phone it in, but with Mazda, there is a lot of thought, engineering, design, and passion baked into their cars. One has to look for these qualities though, and that’s a difficult sell.

      • 0 avatar
        slavuta

        Funny ha, people will be talking of Subaru’s “great awd” for 20 years from now even though with CVTs Subaru doesn’t even have that same AWD systems anymore. They are now FWD leaning. And I was reading in one auto magazine a “snow challenge” that showed that CX5 with its new electronic AWD was as good as Forester on snow while RAV4 and CRV were not so good.

    • 0 avatar
      bullnuke

      Mazda and Mitsubishi each produce more vehicles worldwide than Subaru, ranking is 15th, 16th and 22nd respectively. It seems that Mazda just doesn’t understand the US market or is satisfied engineering vehicles enough to satisfy their larger market outside the US. This appears to be similar to the Mitsubishi plan.

  • avatar
    Funky

    Mazda, I think, needs to get folks into comparison test drives of their vehicles versus the competition. Just last evening I was in my garage looking at (just staring at and listening to) my Mazda 6. We all have our own unique perspectives in regard to cars (and I realize others may not feel the same as me), but from my perspective, Mazdas are something special. And, it’s awareness of their vehicles that’s the issue.

    • 0 avatar
      scdjng

      Agreed. When my mom was shopping for a compact CUV, she had her heart set on an Escape or a CR-V. I made her test drive a CX-5 and now she has 33,000 miles on hers in almost 18 months. She loves the car and can’t wait for the diesel to come out. When she was testing driving cars, she didn’t even think to look at Mazda.

      • 0 avatar
        Nostrathomas

        Same here. My sister in law was close to buying a Fusion, when I suggested she go look at Mazda. Didn’t even think about it before, but now really liking her CX-5.

        When people try them, they tend to like them.

        • 0 avatar
          GeneralMalaise

          Agreed. My son’s wife drives a 2014 CX-5 and loves it. After 55k miles, the CX has been trouble-free and even survived an attack – an angled, glancing blow at full charge – from a large bear on the road up to Lake Tahoe with barely a dent.

      • 0 avatar
        Slappy76

        You might want to read about Mazda 2.2 Diesel in Europe. They’ve had them for a while over there. Lots of issues and unhappy owners.

        Was really hoping for the return of the Mazdaspeed3 or 6 but they’ve shot that down because it’s not in line with their “mature” image.

        Also as much as I like their design from afar. Sitting in a 3 I found their nose to be way too long (new CX-5 looks to be the same). Mediocre visibility. Interiors are too cramped and dark. (Black seems to be the color they mostly know.) The floating display looks like an afterthought.

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      I would buy a Mini-someting but I can’t allow myself because there is well-driving Mazda at much lower price

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    There are too many brands in the mainstream segment.

  • avatar
    Nostrathomas

    I’m not really the audience that manufacturers are chasing, but if Mazda offered the 6 as a wagon here, I’d probably have one in my garage right now instead of the used Volvo. In general I find them to be great cars that still speak to people who care about driving, and I’d like to support them with my money. But I’m just not sedan/crossover guy.

  • avatar
    zoomzoomfan

    Mazda’s problem is brand recognition more-so than product. It’s just not there. I have a 2016 6 and I’ve been asked several times what it is by other people because they liked the design but were startled to see a car that wasn’t a Camry, an Accord, an Altima, or a Fusion.

    My wife has a 2013 CX-5 that we bought new in late 2012 and it has 42,000 miles on it with no issues. Before my 2016 6, I had a 2008 3 hatchback that went six years and 65,000 miles with no real problems aside from normal maintenance things. No rust, either. Mazda finally (admittedly very lately) stepped up their rustproofing game with the 3’s facelift circa 2007.

    If they can overcome the brand recognition problem, they’ll be doing well. At least as well as a small volume manufacturer can.

    Also, Mazdas actually have decent resale value. Particularly the 3. Reason being is that most Mazda owners like their cars and want another one when the time comes to upgrade. Before I get pelted with an onslaught of the B&B saying “I had this one Mazda and it was a rusted out POS, blah blah blah.” remember that I said MOST. Not all.

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      No, not enough in terms of rust proofing. the body in general holds well. But look under rear bumper, where there is only half the paint other surfaces have. It is all rusty. The hardware became worse from 1998 models. Hose clamps, bolts, door hinges. Look under hood. My car is 7 and I see rust coming through unibody blocks where engine installed. Basically, everywhere where only one layer of paint and no protection.

  • avatar
    Raevox

    Though perhaps not really the “ideal” Mazda to start with, I did test drive a 2015 Mazda3i Sport.

    Acceleration was OK. I’m sure the 2.5 would have been nicer and much more punchy, but we were shopping for my husband at the time.

    Took it on the freeway, took it on some curves, thought it was decent. Brought the other half out, and he hated the lack of visibility in the hatch and felt it sat too low.

    He didn’t like the look of the sedan. He liked the CX-5 OK but doesn’t like standard (mandatory) pushbutton start. He didn’t care about the handling. Felt the cabin was claustrophobic. Probably not Mazda’s target demo anyhow.

    For myself, I didn’t feel the 3 was anything special, and without the added gusto of a decent engine, I didn’t really find it fun to drive. Unfortunately. Now that I’m in the market for a car, myself, I barely even gave it a thought before moving on and making a different choice.

    No doubt a Mazda3 is a decent product, but it just didn’t do it for me. Sedan was marginally better. And I hated the tacked-on look of the infotainment screen.

    Believe it or not, the one Mazda that did do it for me, and felt like something special, was my 1994 Ford Probe GT.

  • avatar
    OldManPants

    Perhaps Moro-shachou just wants to get this guy off junket food to save his life.

  • avatar
    orenwolf

    disclaimer: I have *only* owned Mazdas. 3/6/RX8.

    The *reason*, though, is that every time I went shopping for a new vehicle, all the other options in the class were boring to me. The RX8 was unique, 3 sport (s? in the US? The hatch) was miles ahead of the matrix or other hatches at the time from my perspective, and my current six combines awesome fuel efficiency with some of the best tech features, though it cost to get them.

    The problem, I think, is that while the top trims are awesome, the base trims are nothing special, so unless you’re already dropping a lot more than the average folk on a car, you’re not going to find a compelling buy.

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      I have had more Nissans than Mazdas so no disclaimer here…

      Agreed. I went to dealers, drove some cars, realized Mazda is better.

      Disagree about base Mazdas. I think they are very good base cars. It used to be times, not that long ago, in 2010, when I was buying my car – speaking in MSRP money, Mazda iTouring was $17,850. It had split-folding rear seat, blue tooth, etc. To get those 2 options in Civic I had to go with EX, which added sunroof and some other stuff for $3,000 above Mazda. I rest my case.

      • 0 avatar
        WheelMcCoy

        Heh, we both bought our Mazda3 iTouring in 2010. The economy was still in the tank and car sales were at a low. I got mine just a little over $20k — stick, fog lights, auto dimming mirror, and a few more extras. There were 60 payments, no interest.

        I also considered the 2010 Civic, but as history shows, it was a bad vintage. My Mazda3 is still going strong and I’m very happy with it.

  • avatar
    xtoyota

    A warranty like Hyundai / Kia would help a lot
    5/60K full 10/100K

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    Poor Mazda. I like their driving character, their recent attention to styling and interior quality. I’d like them to be rewarded for it, but the market just doesn’t notice them and is not impressed by these attributes.

    What can save them? I dunno. Probably not this guy’s replacement. Once you’re this far under the radar in a competitive and highly competent marketplace I suspect there’s not much you can do. 20-yr 200K mile warranty and transaction prices 20% lower than a Camry?

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    The guy must have been pretty capable on the way up, because based on that pic, he certainly doesn’t fit the corporate mold for how typical execs look.

    My first guess would have been used car sales mgr at a shady new car store.

  • avatar
    syncro87

    I like Mazda. In my opinion, they have made two questionable moves in recent memory that haven’t helped them:

    1) The Mazda5 was a brilliant little van that had a niche to itself. The main problem with it was that the MPG was crap. I owned one. In the real world, I got about the same MPG as my sister did with her Odyssey. The Oddy was a lot bigger, a lot faster. Mazda should have kept the 5 and put a Skyactiv power plant in the engine bay. If they could have bumped MPG up by 4-5 MPG, it would have been ideal. I ended up dumping ours because I couldn’t justify something so small that got 20mpg. I’m guessing the 5 didn’t sell well largely due to unimpressive MPG estimates on window stickers. Shoppers realized that they might as well get a bigger van since they weren’t really gaining any fuel efficiency going smaller.

    2) The CX-3 idea was poorly implemented for the US market. Way too small inside. Honda aced the packaging of their HR-V while Mazda dropped the ball with the CX-3. Honda saddled their car with a crappy power train, of course, but people care more about usable space than a mediocre engine. If the CX-3 had the packaging / interior room of the HR-V, we’d probably own one today. We’d own an HR-V if it didn’t have a CVT and a weak sauce engine.

    • 0 avatar
      MrCornfed

      when I bought my 2016.5 CX-5, I tested the CX-3 GT AWD. I liked it a lot, the handling was great and the engine seemed fine for the size.

      But the interior, my god it was lousy. A car with less than 10 miles should not squeak and rattle, and the heads-up speedo was more humorous than anything.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Mazda’s stubbornness is part of the problem.

    They keep burning resources on rotary development with cult-like zeal, and absolutely refuse to sell a hybrid, EV, etc. An alternate powertrain could be sourced with or co-developed from any number of players.

    Instead, they offer (allegedly) harsh rides, loud interiors, and a mythical diesel that nobody will buy. With similar prices as more accessible mainstream vehicles, they’ll never get traction.

    • 0 avatar
      mike978

      Not that canard again about rotary. From what has been reported they have 50 engineers/staff on that. They sell 1.3 million vehicles and have an R&D budget in the billions – so those fifty souls are not holding them back.
      The diesels are not that mystical when you can buy them in many other markets. The US market is not the bee all and end all. I suppose they could have done a VW and bring it over whilst breaking the law. But they obviously have ethics.
      Mazda has rightly been criticized for several flaws over the years which they have worked on – interior and exterior design, quality of materials, fuel economy and now NVH with the CX9. I expect all future Mazda’s including the soon to launch second gen CX5 will be better on that metric too.

  • avatar
    readallover

    I completely agree on Mazda corporate stubbornness: ROAD NOISE NVH for years they refused to address it, North American owners simply will not put up with it. Also, go to any dealer and they have 3 or 4 6`s on the lot. That will not match up to camcord dealers.

  • avatar
    MatadorX

    You mean selling $30k loaded Mazda3’s and $40k loaded Mazda6’s in a failing car market where if people have $$ they buy SUVs didn’t work? Shocker.

    You can’t even find base models on the lots here in SoCal anymore. Back in 2006 when we bought our “5” they were moving 50% base, 25% touring, 25% grand touring. Finding a base stick-shift with no options was easy, and 17k bought you a minivan with no options, and a CHOICE of 2 blues, grey, white, black, red, or gold, all in stock, all no options. Maybe one or two Touring models. By the end of the run they only stocked 27k Grand Tourings, the stick was discontinued, and the base price had risen 5k. Thus they couldn’t sell.

    Now? Loaded only, potential buyer walks on the lot, sees the only red Mazda3 they have is a loaded 30k car, Mazda dealers aren’t budging,
    and walks to the Honda dealer across the valley picking up a Civic Hatch Sport for $22k no negotiations.

    If you are a cheap car brand, you HAVE to sell cheap cars. No one wants to pay huge bucks for a compact unless it has a premium badge or some power.

    • 0 avatar
      WheelMcCoy

      Mazda is moving away from being a cheap car brand but without spinning off luxury sub-brand. Over the years, their cars have indeed gotten nicer — not luxury, but nicer. Now with the CX-9, Mazda introduces a luxury Signature Series line.

  • avatar
    thegamper

    I love Mazdas, have owned several and will probably own more in the future. That being said, I am a little bummed that you cannot buy any higher powered engines, Awd or speed versions of the regular car models. I previously owned a 2006 Speed 6 and have to say that much fun should be against the law. The current 6 is available in Canada in top spec grand touring trim with a 6mt. It doesn’t sit well with me that you can only get sport or touring trims in the US with 6mt. I’d also echo the plea to sell the 6 wagon here. What a sexy beast. I guarantee it would be in my garage already if they did. Pull out a few more stops Mazda, broaden your appeal. More powerful models, a sexy wagon at a reasonable price. Please don’t put all your eggs in the crossover basket.

    You also have to recognize that as far as lending and leasing goes, Mazda is just not as competitive as automakers with captive finance arms. If you are competing in the cost conscious segments, it matters, alot! Mazda can’t out incentive anyone. Perhaps a reason to try and move upmarket.

  • avatar
    RHD

    Robert Davis looks like the Senior Vice President of Luncheons and Buffets.

  • avatar
    TTACFanatic

    With the sedan market in general declining it doesn’t help that Mazda decided to make their cars “premium” by no longer offering discounts.

    In the Chicago area you can easily get a base Camry/Corolla, with all sorts of goodies (infotainment, safety sense) for much less than a comparable Mazda, because Toyota wants to move metal.

  • avatar

    It’s interesting that Hyundai and Kia have suffered since the market turned to crossovers as they were upgrading their sedans, while Mazda, which has been decently positioned in the crossover market with the CX-3, CX-5, and CX-9, loses market share.

    Maybe it has to do with marketing. Have any of you ever seen an ad for a Mazda crossover?

    • 0 avatar
      brettc

      That’s what I was thinking as I read the article and comments. You rarely see ads for Mazda on TV. I see a lot of Ford, Toyota and GM ads, but I can’t remember the last time I saw a Mazda ad for any of their products. VW is also a niche brand in the U.S. but they run a decent amount of ads too.

  • avatar
    chaparral

    They have very good products and with the 184-hp cap good design for longevity. They have a bad reputation for reliability and rust.

    So they need to take a risk and trust their products.

    10-year, 150,000 mile bumper-to-bumper warranty.

    15-year rust-through warranty, valid in all areas not bastardized by collision repair.

  • avatar
    jthorner

    Give it up Mazda. Focus your energies on markets where you have a chance. You gave it the good fight in the USA for a long time, but you are now largely irrelevant. The rise of Hyundai/Kia and the resurgence of US based brands made second and third tier Japanese brands irrelevant. You are in the company of Isuzu and Mitsubishi now.

    Toyota, Honda and Nissan more than cover your market segment. Subaru successfully created a large niche brand of its own by being steadfastly different: boxer engines and all wheel drive for everything.

  • avatar

    Great product doesn’t matter if pricing is out of whack with the market, especially the lower end of the market.


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