By on December 17, 2018

2017 Mazda CX-5 Front Quarter

Like most automakers, utility vehicles make up the bulk of Mazda’s sales, and the ratio is only swinging further in light trucks’ favor. While the new 3 hatch and sedan may be the freshest products on the automaker’s plate, freshly minted CEO Akira Marumoto knows what butters Mazda’s bread.

To keep the adorably midsized automaker in good standing with customers and accountants, the company is taking great pains to ensure the flow of crossovers never stems. Anywhere Mazda builds cars, Marumoto also wants crossover capacity.

Speaking to Automotive News, the CEO, who took the helm in June, said the automaker will revamp its production base, allowing it to build crossovers at any factory, if needed. The effort starts next year at Mazda’s Salamanca, Mexico plant, home to the current- and next-generation 3. One retooled, Mazda can call up crossovers from the car-only plant.

“What we are discussing internally is the production facility or equipment needed to change the mix in an extreme way, from 0 percent to 100 percent in a production line,” Marumoto said, adding that the actual mix would likely be around 40 percent.

Should sedan and hatch sales take a dive, the automaker’s assembly lines wouldn’t throttle back — they’d just add in a more popular product. The same strategy will be applied to plants in Japan and China.

“We’ll be ready to produce passenger cars and crossovers at every plant,” said Marumoto. “Flexibility is very important.” The CEO added that an issue exists with the company’s body shops, as operations are dedicated along model lines.  Within five or six years, Marumoto sees that bottleneck disappearing.

Over the first 11 months of 2018, crossover sales rose 18.1 percent at Mazda, echoing a trend seen throughout the industry. Meanwhile, car sales fell 13.8 percent. Year to date, crossovers accounted for 64.9 percent of Mazda’s U.S. sales volume, compared to the 57.4 percent seen at the end of November 2017.

[Image:  © 2018 Chris Tonn/TTAC]

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29 Comments on “Mazda Doesn’t Want to Run Low on Crossovers, Plans Accordingly...”


  • avatar
    slavuta

    Go ahead Mazda, do it. And I will not buy one of your cars that is made in Mexico

    • 0 avatar
      SlowMyke

      What a weird point to take from this article… The factory is already in Mexico, already building the product that it’s scheduled to continue building. The point of the article is that Mazda is beginning to upgrade all of their production facilities to be capable of changing the product mix basically in real-time.

      Is Mazda on your radar for potential vehicles to buy now? Would you consider Mazda vehicles produced in the US? How about Japan?

      • 0 avatar
        sportyaccordy

        slavuta is TTAC’s resident Mazda fanboy, so I am surprised. Of all the reasons not to buy a Mazda in the future- and for the next 3, there are plenty- place of assembly doesn’t seem like a big deal to me; especially for a company that was largely importing from Japan anyway.

        • 0 avatar
          slavuta

          sportyaccordy,

          I already told you that I am neither – fan or boy. I find Mazda being best driving car in a cheap segment. That is, steering, brake, clutch, gear shifter, road handling, switch gear in cabin, etc. Basically, operating Mazda brings pleasure vs many other cars. Recently drove Mustang GT. Nice clutch, but really touchy brakes, and steering. Its precise but it feels disconnected. What a blessing to have Mazda steering! Only similar I tried in new BMW 525 but that car cost double.
          I honestly tried to buy Accord, Renegade, Elantra sport, Civic Si, Civic Hatch, Mini Clubman and Countryman, Crosstrek; last time… and yet, I picked another Mazda.

        • 0 avatar

          Wow! There is a difference between Japan and Mexico, don’t you thinks so?

      • 0 avatar
        slavuta

        SlowMyke,

        Is Mazda on my radar? – I will have 3 (3 mazdas, not mazda3) on my driveway tonight. I buy only authentic. My Japanese car is built by best dedicated workers that exist – Japanese. Let me tell you something – I currently have 5 vehicles and 5 of my vehicles have J-vin. I don’t want my Mazda built in Mexico.
        I know what’s article’s point. My point, when last year I looked at new Mazda, I took ‘6 because ‘3 was all Mexican. When I am thinking that my Japanese Highlander is 10 and soon needs (I want my wife drive something new – there is one life) replacement, I am shaking. Because, where am I going to get another J-vin SUV? Only CX5/Cx9 and you might catch occasional RAV4.

        • 0 avatar
          mittencuh

          What difference does a robot in Japan and a robot in Mexico make building a car from the same supply chain parts bin? Asking as someone who owns a Mexico-built VW (flawless), a Ohio-built Honda (flawless) and previously a Georgia-built Kia (flawless).

          • 0 avatar
            johnds

            Oddly there are some differences. I have had two experiences with cars built in different countries. 1 was a Ford Focus, and the 2nd was a Honda CRV.
            I was helping my friend fix her 2001 Ford Focus, and I ran into a lot of trouble finding parts at the dealer. The car was built at the Wayne Michigan plant, but the parts they gave me for another factory would not fit the car.
            My 2nd experience has been my 2008 Honda Crv. When I go to the dealer for parts they check the vin because there are some parts specific to the Japan version, USA, or Mexico built ones for my particular year. So it’s feasible to say in my opinion where its built does matter. Also there have been a lot of issues with cars coming in from Mexico on train cars being stripped of parts, etc.

          • 0 avatar
            slavuta

            @mittencuh

            finally, a valid question, why? Short answer – tooling. Imagine Japan. A tool tuning engineer detects small discrepancy and immediately corrects it, properly logs it, you get the idea. This is not happening as vigorously in Mexico. Trust me. I’ve seen Mexican assembly “quality”.

            When you say that VWs are flawless, you must be kidding me. And Honda… this is special talk. Because I can tell you with full responsibility that Mazda6 built way better than Accord. When I test cars, I pay attention to fit and finish. I would give Accord 3 stars. My brother has/had 5 accords. His latest one had huge panel gaps (something Honda used to be best at), his trunk lid simply misaligned. The Accord I was looking at, had rear bumper cover slightly bent at junction with metal, because fastener holes didn’t align precisely.

        • 0 avatar
          sportyaccordy

          Have you ever owned anything that didn’t have a J-vin?

  • avatar

    Unlike GM, Mazda realizes it has to have a strong presence in both cars and SUVs. We all would be thrilled if GM could produce quality cars like the Mazda 3 & 6.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      We would all be thrilled if your rhetoric changed, instead of commenting on other cars with the only purpose of bashing GM or Ford, or by reading and understanding parts like “Over the first 11 months of 2018, crossover sales rose 18.1 percent at Mazda, echoing a trend seen throughout the industry. Meanwhile, car sales fell 13.8 percent.” and recognizing that things like this wont change no matter how hard you troll.

      “Unlike GM, Mazda realizes it has to have a strong presence in both cars and SUVs”

      Mazda sells three cars. Three. 3. Less than four, more than two. After the restructuring, GM will still offer more car models than Mazda.

  • avatar
    NL

    So why can’t the domestic automakers do this instead of killing off their car models? I suppose it’s not inexpensive to retool in this way, but surely flexibility to respond to market changes is a good thing.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      Ford has been doing it for many years, the Taurus rolls off the same line at the same time as the Explorer, well at least for another 3 months.

    • 0 avatar
      Richard Chen

      Mazda’s had flexible production for quite some time, with differing platforms such as the Miata and Mazda3 built one right after another on the line. I suspect being a small carmaker and not having space nor resources led to this.

      The Detroit 3 previously had lots of sales of a single car, hundreds of thousands+ in a model year. They didn’t need flexible manufacturing, and with industry contraction they’re paying the price.

      • 0 avatar
        Scott

        Actually they are closing one plant that had that flexibility, Oshawa has a flex line that is capable of building different models and (I believe) types on the same line one after the other. There are other reasons to close it, not flexibility (and only GM knows the true reasons)

  • avatar
    FThorn

    The correct capitalist, market economics to ensure you don’t run out (aka scarce resource) is to raise prices. Easy. Really, easy.

    • 0 avatar
      SlowMyke

      This ignores all other factors, however, such as available competition, brand positioning, market perception, performance goals. Also, selling one cx5 for $30k as opposed to 2 at $29k probably doesn’t make you as much money.

      This isn’t a homework assignment, it’s a massive corporation working in one of the most complex industries/markets in the world. Easy, it ain’t.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    All Mazda needs now is a CX-7 between the 5 and 9.

    • 0 avatar
      James2

      Mazda (with Toyota) is building a new plant in the South (thinking Alabama, but…?) and they said they will build a crossover there (while Toyota will build the Corolla). Could it be a CX-7 revival? Or are they just shifting CX-5 production from Japan?

    • 0 avatar
      shifter25

      They do have something in between a CX-5 & CX-9 ,it’s called the CX-8 and currently JDM-only. It’s a mashup of the new CX-5 face with the back of the CX-9. Also has a third row and that long overdue diesel engine.

      I think it’d be a good addition for the US market.

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    I’m happy to hear that Mazda are planning for the future and figuring out how to stay in business without completely abandoning the sedan segments. If it means that they can rejigger and still have sedans in the wings I’m all for it as I’m not ready to go full-on into crossovers (had an Escape for awhile, no significant demerits, but it didn’t quite do what I wanted).

    I currently drive a Mazda6 6MT and am extremely happy with it, especially since I got the upgrade to Android Auto. It’s a small thing, but really does make a difference.

  • avatar
    conundrum

    Glad to hear you like your car – I’m considering one this coming spring, after two test drives of turbos at different dealers. Seems pretty nice to me after trying out so many cars I’ve officially lost count.

    Mazda is the master of making specialized multi-tasking production machinery. I remember reading an SAE article about a decade ago about their three different engine block machining center. They could machine their diesel and gas fours, and the Ford V6 block they bought in for the old CX-9 on one huge machine automatically. Now that’s pretty ingenious, and they did it themselves – not hiring a machine tool company.


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