Americans Are Gonna Love Our New Crossover, Mazda Claims
There’s no automaker with an American dealer network that can’t make do with another high-riding utility vehicle.
If you’re Ford, four is most definitely not enough, so there’s two more on the way — one exciting, the other decidedly not. If you’re General Motors, you’ve already green-lit the import of a Chinese-built crossover to fill a hole in a lineup. If you’re Hyundai, well, you’ve just s ummoned a product army.
Mazda needs a new crossover. There’s simply too many sales going unrealized in the United States, where the brand is on track to record a second yearly sales decline. Knowing there’s only one surefire way to boost volume these days, Mazda is placing its hopes on a new crossover made for America, made in America, that somehow won’t gobble up sales of its existing utility lineup.
Speaking to Automotive News, Mazda CEO Masamichi Kogai claims the new model could become the brand’s U.S. best-seller. For his company’s sake, let’s hope Kogai’s prediction holds more water than his one-time vision for 400,000 annual U.S. sales. The brand’s sales peaked at 319,184 units in 2015, falling under 300,000 in 2016.
Mazda’s mystery vehicle will emerge from a joint Mazda-Toyota factory in a still-unknown locale in 2021. All of Mazda’s allotted plant capacity will go towards the new vehicle. That’s a potential for 150,000 annual units, assuming the crossover finds buyers.
“We have big expectations,” Kogai said of the planned model. “This is our declaration that we are going to grow our business in the U.S.”
Mazda makes a habit of tailoring models towards certain markets. The CX-4 is built for China. The not-quite-right-sized CX-8 is for Japan’s eyes only. Whatever new crossover emerges from the new joint facility will be designed not just to woo U.S. buyers, but to prevent it from eating into the sales of the CX-3, CX-5, or CX-9. A tall order.
“We are actually going to introduce a totally new and different type of SUV,” Kogai said. “R&D is coordinating with our North American operations on that right now.”
It’s expected that, given the segment’s thirst for larger vehicles of this type, the new crossover will slot between the CX-5 and CX-9. Maybe we’ll even see a return of the CX-7 nameplate. Still, the space between the brand’s two larger crossovers isn’t a vast, endless plain. Many consider the CX-9 a little on the small side for three-row duty. How does Mazda split the difference?
One possibility lies in growing the next-generation CX-9, thus increasing the size gap. That model is due for a full redesign in 2022.
Whatever form the lineup takes, Mazda’s buyers are increasingly turning away from passenger cars. During the first half of the year, crossovers accounted for 53 percent of the brand’s U.S. sales. Through October, that tally rose to 57 percent. Mazda would like to bring it up to 60 percent.
As it awaits a new factory and vehicle, Mazda’s goals amount to greater profitability, fewer incentives, and the rollout of a new platform and the company’s Skyactiv-X gas compression ignition engine. A fully redesigned Mazda 3 arrives for the 2019 model year.
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I'll be following this with interest. I'm soon to downsize from two to one vehicles - an Element and a Fit to what I thought would be a CRV. But this could change things...