By on July 1, 2019

While Mazda’s vehicles are often praised for being handsome and playing host to desirable driving dynamics, the latter half of that arrangement has become less important in recent years. Remember the last time you saw a Zoom-Zoom ad? Neither do we.

That’s because Mazda isn’t the same brand anymore. While some of its budget-minded performance chops remain intact (MX-5), the prevailing shift has been toward luxury — which is kind of a nebulous concept these days. In the most general sense, it means Mazda is pushing for higher-margin vehicles and fancier showrooms. But it’s not a guaranteed strategy for winning… or losing, for that matter. 

Japanese luxury brands are all sort of middling in the United States. But, globally, they’re way behind their German rivals. BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Audi are building more models for more customers in more parts of the world and are happy to come up/downmarket to snag another image-conscious buyer. Meanwhile, Lexus, Infiniti, and Acura can’t go all that far downmarket without stepping on the toes of their mainstream counterparts and have sales consolidated primarily in North America. That won’t be as big of problem for Mazda, but it will have to differentiate itself from other the premium brands coming out of Japan while doing the same against European nameplates — and it has fewer resources to work with.

According to Automotive News, expert opinions differ on whether a mainstream brand with a fairly consistent history in the U.S. can reshape itself as an alternative to existing luxury brands. Honestly, we’re also having difficulties forecasting this one. Mazda’s aspirations are clear and its progress is admirable but the path ahead is looks to be littered with moderate dangers.

From Automotive News:

Going upscale is not an easy proposition for an Asian automaker known for value. Mazda argues that as a small brand, it’s better off finding a niche that commands better margins. It’s new Signature trims, for example, are lavishly appointed with nappa leather, genuine wood trim, heated and ventilated seats, alloy wheels and turbocharged engines in most models. A CX-5 Signature compact crossover stickers at $37,935, including shipping. Mazda says the trim has proved popular.

A harder sell, perhaps, is the new-generation Mazda3, a compact car that is the brand’s first ground-up product under its new design philosophy. Despite a price bump, it’s a hit — among car reviewers. The buying public, however, is more interested in crossovers, and Mazda’s new subcompact CX-30 won’t hit showrooms for several more months.

Mazda’s U.S. sales are down 16 percent in the first five months of the year — the sixth-largest decline of all brands — compared with 2.4 percent for the industry. Sales of every Mazda model fell by double-digit percentages. In 2018, Mazda sales rose 3.8 percent.

Even though that looks a little bleak, relentlessly chasing volume has negatively impacted both Nissan and Subaru — albeit for different reasons. Mazda is probably wise to avoid following suit and the brand’s perceived sexiness (thanks, designers) should serve it well on the premium market. “The thing that Mazda has done that’s really smart: They started building their Signature versions,” explained Brian Moody, executive editor of Autotrader. “The best way to do that kind of thing is build cool products first, then craft a message. Don’t do it the other way around, like we’ve seen so many times.”

He believes Mazda’s best strategy would be to attempt to slot itself “just under Acura” as a near-premium brand.

Whatever Mazda does, the plan needs to include taking a long, sober look at the U.S. market to examine where other brands have thrived or failed. With fewer financial resources at its disposal, the company can’t afford a major malfunction during its transitional period. Fortunately, Mazda is aware of all of this, said it knows which side its bread is buttered on, and views the American market as “instrumental” to its overall strategy.

Fine tuning its leasing program also wouldn’t be a terrible idea, as premium-auto shoppers tend to like swapping cars more often than the rest of us.

Most dealers appear to be supportive of the automaker’s long-term goals but some have complained that they’re taking a beating in the interim due to a lack of incentives and product-focused advertising coming from the factory. Upgrading showrooms has also been a sore spot for some but the backlash has been much lighter than what we’ve seen from similar programs — Cadillac’s Project Pinnacle, for example.

At any rate, the majority of Mazda’s lineup still gets a lot of praise and the company hasn’t torpedoed driving enjoyment as it attempts to flesh out its cars with more technology and upgraded materials (for a modest increase in price). Likewise, few are dissing Mazda’s upmarket plan as truly foolhardy. The worst we can say is that its first stabs at the newish “Feel Alive” advertising campaign were abysmal and follow-up spots still leave a lot to be desired. But auto journalists and industry analysts aren’t going to be the ones that dictate if the manufacturer’s strategy works. It’ll be the customers responding to those ads and the new-and-improved dealer experience. We’re deferring to you, the consumer, on this one and wishing the company lots of luck. Because we don’t have the foggiest as to how this will turn out yet.

[Images: Mazda]

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101 Comments on “Is Mazda’s Premium Push Prudent?...”


  • avatar
    ToddAtlasF1

    Some flame surfacing is more horrific than others. That poor CX-5 might be the worst victim.

    What brand manager hasn’t wished he could turn his sow’s ears into Veblen goods? VW is good at it, but they had to rebrand their unsellable VWs as Audis and Bentleys to make it happen.

    • 0 avatar
      bufguy

      unsellable VWs….You do realize that VW is the second largest car manufacturer in the world with the vast majority of their sales as “VW”branded cars

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        That makes Europeans masochists, that does not make VWs reliable.

        VWs just don’t stand up to the American duty cycle. For instance, our Honda Civic is 2.5 years old and has 60k miles on it, with no unscheduled maintenance (except for a flat tire). In comparison, my VW cost $7k to maintain over 20k miles.

        My VW was crap. My father’s VWs were crap. Those cars were lovable crap, but crap nonetheless. But it has been that way for decades, and it will take decades to recover their reputation.

        The Germans tell me this is my fault for misusing their product — so I buy Hondas & Toyotas instead.

        • 0 avatar
          volvo

          As someone who has owned MBZ, BMW, Porsche and Volvo over my many cars I would say +3 to your post. I went to Honda/Toyota about 20 years ago and have not looked back.

      • 0 avatar
        ToddAtlasF1

        I was referring to cars like the VW Phaeton. They couldn’t find a way to move them off lots for $60K with VW badges, but they found buyers when they dressed them up as Bentleys for three times the price. That’s an indication of what the general public thinks of VWs. They’re a way of announcing that you can’t afford the car you really want, so you’ll put up with a poorly engineered and even worse built alternative to a mainstream compact.

        • 0 avatar
          Kyree S. Williams

          To be fair, the Phaeton was a doomed product here in the US, because almost no one wanted a $70,000 Volkswagen, and they especially didn’t want one that could be mistaken for a contemporary Passat or Jetta. The stealth-wealth niche was pretty dead by then.

          But on its own merits, the Phaeton was a fantastic luxury limo, with construction, materials and design far above what you’d expect for its asking price. It was certainly a better luxury car than VW Group’s own Audi A8 at the time. It’s more that the Phaeton was a Bentley with the ostentatious portions removed…than that the Bentleys were tarted up Phaetons.

          • 0 avatar
            ToddAtlasF1

            “To be fair, the Phaeton was a doomed product here in the US, because almost no one wanted a $70,000 Volkswagen”3

            That’s the point. Moving upmarket is hard when your mainstream products are disregarded by the public.

            I keep seeing people incorrectly stating that the US doesn’t care about stealth wealth. Six figure pickup truck sales disagree. So do sales of full sized SUVs that don’t have giant grills. I knew a bunch of people that loved their beige Yukon Denalis right up until GM replaced them with a model as tacky as an Escalade.

          • 0 avatar
            bd2

            The Phaeton was doomed b/c it brought just about nothing to the VALUE quotient – which is necessary for a new player in the lux market (esp. for a non-lux brand).

            Why get the Phaeton when the A8 was only a couple thousand more and that’s putting aside that the Audi flagship doesn’t sell.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    I hope Mazda knows what it’s doing, the “luxury” market is a dicey one at best. Better to come out with all new up-market products then to push existing ones up. That $38K CX-5 looks equal to a $30K Escape, it’ll be tough to convince people otherwise

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      I haven’t seen it in person by my understanding is the interiors of the CX-5 are dramatically better than the Escape.

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        I hope something is better, the rest of the car is pretty on par with the Escape. Good thing they recently added a turbo, because it was a lot slower then the Escape 2.0T

        • 0 avatar
          Fusion2010

          As someone who recently cross shopped both the Escape Titanium and the CX-5 Turbo, I can honestly tell you the Escape was GARBAGE compared to the Mazda. This coming from someone who has only bought Fords over the last almost 15 years.

          The Escape had an awful and cheap interior, the transmission felt rough and jerky, and oh the check engine light was already lit on a brand new car. With a sticker price of almost $45,000 CAD it wasn’t equipped great, no cooled seats or LED headlights of which the Mazda has both. In comparison the CX-5 that I ended up buying had a WAY nicer interior, it looks and feels a few steps above anything else in the class and this isn’t even the Signature trim. It feels significantly faster than the Escape, the transmission shifts so much better. The CX-5 is just the better driving, looking and feeling car and it was $4,000 CAD cheaper than the Ford.

          I have no idea what Ford was smoking when they priced that piece of junk in Canada but it must have been strong because the interior didn’t feel much better than the $15,000 CAD cheaper Hyundai Kona Ultimate I also test drove.

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            Really? That’s interesting, as someone who was ready to buy another Escape I’ll have to check out the Mazda before I make a decision. The only thing is Ford discounts Escapes dramatically, so the bottom line might be quite different. I’m also still sweet on Renegades, so we’ll see

      • 0 avatar
        tankinbeans

        In a word, yes. The CX-5 is a much nicer place to be and I have 22000 miles worth of experience in a 2014 Escape, admittedly a base model. The upper trims aren’t much better.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      It is too late…

      Resale and Depreciation:
      Our Mazda CX-5 had a sticker price of $34,505 when it was new. After a year of driving, our odometer had about 17,600 miles on it. Assuming clean condition, the CX-5 had a private-party appraised value of $24,818.

      This is a 28% depreciation, which is worse than our long-term fleet average of 22%. Edmund’s

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        MY19 Grand Touring Reserve I take it? FWD or AWD?

        Also, aren’t you only allowed to drive Buicks?

        • 0 avatar
          NormSV650

          It was Edmund’s, based in California, longtwrm review. A GT with Premium Package and another $100 in front floor mats and lighted door sills.

          “We did opt for the Grand Touring’s lone option package, the Premium package. It bundles heated rear seats, a heated steering wheel, a windshield wiper de-icer, and a head-up display with traffic sign recognition. Our CX-5 also came with an optional cargo mat ($70), illuminated doorsill plates ($400) and a rear bumper guard ($125). These options plus a $595 charge for the paint and destination fees brought our CX-5’s total MSRP to $34,505. But we didn’t buy this specific CX-5. Mazda lent it to us for the duration of the test.”

      • 0 avatar
        stevelovescars

        Mmmm, maybe, but nobody pays sticker price for them, either. That’s the rub… my wife’s Mazda CX-9 is super comfortable, well built, has been flawless to own for the past 18 months, and feels like a luxury car. But we also got many thousands off the sticker price and nearly zero interest when she leased it. Then again, I suppose this is the game all manufacturers have to play these days.

        I guess the real question, for which we don’t know the answer, is whether Mazda is making more money selling fewer but more-expensive cars than they were trying to compete with mass-market vehicles. They are, sadly, but a niche player in the US market with fewer dealers of mixed quality and much smaller marketing budgets than their competitors. From that perspective, repositioning themselves makes some sense. I’ve owned a few Mazdas over the years and do find their products more interesting than most of the stuff on the market that outsells them, so I hope they are successful and stick around.

      • 0 avatar

        Why look at MSRP to determine deprecation? No real business would do that.. it’s what the real cost is. Telling me what sticker price is means nothing compared to the real cost.

      • 0 avatar
        mr_mike

        Wouldn’t the high depreciation put them in the class with the upper crust from Germany? At least as it nears the end of it’s manufacturer’s warranty?

  • avatar
    jalop1991

    “BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Audi are building more models for more customers in more parts of the world and are happy to come up/downmarket to snag another image-conscious buyer. Meanwhile, Lexus, Infiniti, and Acura can’t go all that far downmarket without stepping on the toes of their mainstream counterparts ”

    Audi would like to have a talk with you, as they encounter VW very quickly when Audi tries to adjust downmarket.

    A3/GTI, S3/Golf R. Do you want a notchback or a hatchback? That’s the only question.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      “…Lexus, Infiniti, and Acura can’t go all that far downmarket without stepping on the toes of their mainstream counterparts ”

      Hence no HR-V based Acura CDX. Now look at HR-V sales since their prices are past $30K now?

  • avatar
    Blackcloud_9

    My brother and sister-in-law just bought said CX-5 Signature (in Soul Red) and are quite happy with it. They cross-shopped this with the Lexus compact CUV and the ones from BMW and MB.
    They found the engine in the Lexus too noisy an gutless, the BMW too spartan, and the MB too expensive.
    The CX-5 has all the gear that rivals my LaCrosse Premium, plus real wood trim. I don’t know what they paid but I do know they said it cost less than the Lexus. Also, they’re not afraid to spend a few bucks on their cars. Their other car is an Audi A6, previous cars were an Acura TL and a top-trim level Accord.
    BTW…The Soul Red color is epic, especially on a bright, sunny day.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Interesting, I never thought I’d see cross shopping Mazda with zee Germans and Lexus. The Lexus might be phoned in but zee Germans are of an entirely different class and philosophy than Mazda. Unless you’re talking about garbage like the CLA/GLA and whatever disposable transverse FWD non-sense BMW is peddling (found it: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BMW_UKL_platform).

      This is from 2014 but:

      “”Not only is the CLA the worst performing Mercedes in the survey,” deputy auto editor Jon Linkov told Business Insider. “The CLA is also actually 140% worse than the average car.””

      “”It’s small, cramped, and with a front-wheel drive chassis is also missing some Mercedes-Benz DNA.””

      businessinsider.com/consumer-reports-mercedes-benz-cla-worst-car-in-lineup-2014-10

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    I personally appreciate that they effectively have 6 trims; 3 for the plebs that are on the affordable end and 3 for the entry lux buyers which offer more kit should they desire it.

    They’ve certainly earned my business and I will be keeping them in mind for future acquisitions, be they leases or buys.

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    None of the dealers in my area (Indiana) look like lux stores.
    Maybe that’s not an issue, but maybe it is.
    The Hyundai and Kia stores are newer and nicer.

    • 0 avatar
      bufguy

      Here in Buffalo, Towne Mazda opened just after Towne refurbished their BMW store….Comparatively the Mazda store is quite nice, almost on par with BMW

    • 0 avatar
      spookiness

      This. I’ve owned 4 Mazdas. 2 bought new, 2 bought used. The new car buying experience was not pleasant, and it wasn’t because the physical dealership wasn’t posh. The sales experience was just scummy. One of the dealers most convenient to me I tried to buy from twice, and they were just terrible and didn’t take me seriously, so I went further afield. I got all my service there though, and their service was fine. I mentioned the sales staff to my service advisor, and she said she heard that a lot.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    The average pleb can’t afford a new car today when ATP is compared to average household income. Automakers from Kia to Chevy to Mazda are all going upscale and blurring the lines of luxury to increase profit as the pool of available buyers is flat, or shrinking.

    Dealers survive by selling used iron either off lease at the 2 to 4-year mark or traded it in for a pittance at the 5 to 6-year mark. The average plebs, or those who don’t want to take a bath on depreciation buy those vehicles, and want more bang for the buck.

    This trend is accelerating as we see $100K HD pickup trucks, $70K 1/2-ton pickups, $50K+ “mainstream” brand SUV/CUV vehicles that provide $10K to $20K unit profit after sale.

    You can try and sell econoboxes and make less margin per unit, or load them up and sell less, but make fatter EBITDA margins. It’s that simple. Given the sensors, screens, and motors for many of these luxury features are literally plug-and-play in the manufacturing process (or OTA if you’re Tesla) the more option boxes checked, the fatter the margin.

    Mazda is just doing what everyone else is doing.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      As pricing continues to be more divorced from reality it will eventually impact the market in the form of fewer sales once a certain point is reached. I suspect this will all come to a head in the next recession, then weaker players will be shaken out. Sergio was right about the need for consolidation in the industry.

      “The average plebs, or those who don’t want to take a bath on depreciation buy those vehicles”

      They by and large will lose their shirts through a combination of near predatory used financing, future reliability issues on half baked technology, and dealer dependence on secondary sales for profits as new sales dwindle.

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        Agreed. The only “winners” in this are those who choose to let someone else take the depreciation bath, are “rich” enough to buy used (per Jack’s fantastic piece he wrote for TTAC years ago) and pay cash or use very low-interest loans with a big down payment from a mainstream bank.

        The pleb who can’t buy new, buys used through subprime or secondary financing with no money down – they are totally boned.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    “Mazda argues that as a small brand, it’s better off finding a niche that commands better margins.”

    Bingo. Mazda has some serious cost issues if it can’t profit on an avg transaction of 26K (Touring, one trim up from base).

    “A CX-5 Signature compact crossover stickers at $37,935”

    The msrp for a base CX-5 Sport is $24,350, yet the popular signature is 38K? If Mazda is only profiting 1K on the base model @ 24K, imagine the ridiculous margin if even half the markup to signature is cost. On a CX-5. Amazing.

    From what I’ve seen in real estate analysis, the reason builders are *only* building “luxury” apartments/townhouses these days as opposed to conventional apt bldg/townhouse/row house is because inflation and cost overruns are so bad on *any* kind of construction they only way they can still cut a profit is through high margins (also probably for business financing the banksters probably like seeing “luxury” vs lower margin starter homes/apts etc). This may also be happening to Mazda, as I speculate above real production costs may be so high (and possible incentive spending) per unit, the only way to profit is on the gingerbread (which historically was always an area of significant margin). If this is true, the days might be numbered for Mazda because I don’t think they will be able to survive without some kind of consolidation or alliance to share technology and manage common costs.

    “He believes Mazda’s best strategy would be to attempt to slot itself “just under Acura” as a near-premium brand.”

    Acura barely qualifies as a brand, but I really don’t see how Mazda can be considered to be a contender just beneath. Mazda is Japanese Pontiac without the parent company’s deep pockets. Just more marketing conjecture and fantasies.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Additional: From what I saw on the block years back, the market typically sees through bullsh!t well and lipstick-on-pig models such as the CX-5 Signature experience steep initial depreciation, the kind that is enough to really blow your lease residuals and soak leasing companies. CX-5 Signature may offer Nappa leather et al but its still fundamentally a 24K retail chassis and drivetrain from a mid-tier at best brand. All that gingerbread is not very expensive due to economies of scale, so it really comes off on the block sales.

      So lets go to the tape:

      MY19 Mazda CX-5 AWD Signature I4T

      6/18/19 $30,600 *8,797 4.9 4GT/A Red Lease Southeast Orlando

      There is literally only one example in MMR, however we see the MY19 sells for a hair over 30K. We’re only on the cusp of MY20 and we’re down about 22% already. There is no Signature in MY18

      MY18 Mazda CX-5 AWD Grand Touring 2.5 I4

      6/26/19 $22,500 32,089 4.5 4G/A Silver Regular Southwest San Antonio
      6/26/19 $25,250 86 5.0 4G/A Gray Lease Southwest Dallas
      6/25/19 $21,200 45,747 4.0 4G/A Silver Regular Southeast Pensacola
      6/25/19 $26,750 5,715 4.8 4G/A Gray Lease West Coast Riverside
      6/25/19 $25,500 10,247 5.0 4G/A Red Lease West Coast Riverside
      6/21/19 $24,000 21,809 4.6 4G/A Silver Regular Northeast Pennsylvania
      6/18/19 $21,500 43,407 4.4 4G/A Blue Lease Southeast Orlando
      6/18/19 $22,200 38,366 4.4 4G/A Blue Lease Southeast Statesville
      6/17/19 $23,000 18,805 2.9 4G/A Gray Lease Northeast Pennsylvania
      6/13/19 $23,600 30,295 – – 4G/A Blue Regular Midwest Chicago
      6/12/19 $26,200 3,466 4.8 4G/A Blue Lease Southeast Nashville
      6/12/19 $22,250 36,569 4.1 4G/A Blue Lease West Coast San Diego
      6/11/19 $25,250 11,358 4.7 4G/A Red Lease West Coast Riverside
      6/6/19 $22,000 43,558 3.7 4G/A Black Lease Southwest Omaha
      6/6/19 $22,250 33,246 4.1 4G/A Silver Lease West Coast Southern California
      6/5/19 $21,250 40,245 4.0 4G/A Silver Lease West Coast San Diego
      6/4/19 $22,000 40,244 2.8 4G/A Silver Lease West Coast Riverside
      6/2/19 $25,500 11,853 4.8 4G/A Silver Lease West Coast Riverside

      The aggregate is 23,6, one with 86 literal miles did $25,250. The msrp of this model was just 30,9 but if look at under 10K miles we see two examples at 26,2 and 26,750, with the 86 mile’d one at 25,250 (which I find odd but someone just got a deal I suppose). So if we round down to 26 even for the three, the MY18 -which is nearly 2MYs old- has only depreciated $4,900 from msrp. Therefore the “popular” Signature has lost $7400 vs the 38K sales figure, or a full $2500 MORE, than the OLDER CX-5 Grand Touring which was top trim in its model year. More MY19 data would probably reduce the $2500 figure for a better aggregate, but the proven point is when pricing reaches further than the product is realistically valued, the block doesn’t tolerate it or to put it another way: don’t write checks your body can’t cash (like marking up your new top trim $7K just because screw you its “premium”).

      Mazda “premium”? Lololololol.

      • 0 avatar
        spookiness

        Highly optioned models of most cars depreciate faster. This is why I, being cheap, always hold out for the loaded trims of used cars. They cost only a few pennies more than the mid and low trim models.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          Typically about 10% from what I’ve seen.

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            Ok, there you go, where the higher trim Mazda is 20% more new, it’s only 10% more used. I’m with spookiness I’d rather hold out for the used Mazda then buy a new one. It’s a much better value

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I agree with you both, it always made more sense to wait for the example with leather and a roof for a bit more than to buy base. Retail though it becomes perverse where they put all-the-money on the loaded model and then use the base ones as switch cars.

            “I’d rather hold out for the used Mazda then buy a new one. It’s a much better value”

            Here’s a real example. Even if you could get the MY18 shown below for $21,250 plus a buyers fee of 250, I think its damned expensive value proposition as it will come with no warranty, already 40K miles, need tires, probably brakes, and is coming up on fluid changes.

            6/5/19 $21,250 40,245 4.0 4G/A Silver Lease West Coast San Diego

            although here’s an identical 16, AWD Grand Touring:

            6/27/19 $16,500 62,882 4.4 4G/A Gray Regular Southwest Texas Hobby

            So it will lose roughly 5K in three model years/20K. I would have expected much lower, although this whole world is upside down anymore.

            Maybe you’re right on the value proposition.

        • 0 avatar
          APaGttH

          @spookiness

          Exactly the same. The last new car I bought was in 2009, and that was G8 GT. Sold it last year (full of regret) with only 33% depreciation over 9 years – the value of car performed as expected and my TCO for the 9 years I had it was a pittance.

          Since then – lightly used and optioned out. I’m fortunate to meet Jack’s criteria to be able to own a used car. Many aren’t.

    • 0 avatar

      Pontiac was considered as a premium brand compared to Chevy but not up to Oldsmobile or Buick’s level. I am not sure about Mazda being more luxury than Camry XLE. Toyota got luxury right – smooth and comfortable ride. Like Lincoln or Buick. I do not think Mazda6 can compete with Camry let alone Lexus. Yes Mazda was Ford’s Pontiac while Ford owned it. Today – not that much. They need a parent company.

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        Compete depends on what grounds. If you factor in driving dynamics, in the class, it is the Mazda6 or the Accord – the Camry doesn’t close. I think you’re overstating the degree of luxury provided in the Camry, which has been steadily decontented from peak Toyota of 92-96. I would argue the Camry of that error, when you factor in everything, was the best vehicle built in the last 50 years by every measurable objective. Hell, you could even get the V6 with a manual back then!

        Murdered out – yes the whole game changes. But you see that now from every maker.

        A stripped Malibu in rental car trim is a horror. A loaded out version feels like a different car. A Camry LE in rental car trim isn’t quite a horror, but no one will call it luxury. So on and so on.

        As for Mazda standing alone, that’s a fool’s game longterm.

        Just tossing this out there, what if Mazda and Fuji Heavy Industries merged? Subaru would be the mainstream brand and Mazda could become Acura, Buick, Infiniti, but hopefully with more direction.

        Just thinking out loud.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          Pedantic, but:

          “In May 2016, Fuji Heavy Industries announced that it would change its name to Subaru Corporation, with the change effective on April 1, 2017”

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Subaru_Corporation

          • 0 avatar

            “In May 2016, Fuji Heavy Industries announced that it would change its name to Subaru Corporation, with the change effective on April 1, 2017”

            Did layoffs followed?

      • 0 avatar
        bd2

        Biggest issue for Mazda (more than its premium pricing) is its lineup being significantly tighter interior-wise than the competition (and Americans love having copious amounts of space).

        Not nearly as much of an issue for other markets and hence, not surprisingly, Mazda does a lot better in those markets (EU, Canada, Australia); plus those market appreciate and are willing to pay more $$ to “dash-stroke.”

        As for the ES, only markets where it sells are the US and China (doesn’t even sell well in Canada).

        Different markets have diff. expectations when it comes to “luxury.”

  • avatar
    lastwgn

    It is actually quite simple. Mazda had no choice. None at all. When Ford sold its controlling ownership stake back to Mazda to send it back to being a fully independent automaker, the die was cast. How so?

    Mazda spent decades while controlled by Ford attempting to compete with the volume automakers. Sharing resources, purchasing, manufacturing, platform development, etc., with Ford meant that it could at least stay in the ring and keep taking punches. They could even utilize Ford’s credit arm to compete in the leasing business.

    Once Ford was out and Mazda had regained complete independence, it also needed to decide a direction that would allow them to keep the lights on. Slugging it out with the volume brands – Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Ford, Chevrolet, etc. – was certainly not going to work given that it had not worked when it was tied up with Ford. If you cannot make a profit through volume, you are left with no choice but to make a profit based upon higher transaction prices. This is an entirely different value proposition. This is where Mazda went, and it is where they had to go.

    In the Minnesota Twin Cities we have several stand alone Mazda stores that are outstanding. They have been completely updated and operate in the premium manner that Mazda is striving for. Hopefully their entire dealer network will catch up soon.

    Their product development at this point has been steady, consistent, and keeps improving incrementally to continue the slow and steady move upmarket. No question it is a difficult task, but there was no choice. Remaining as an independent, unaffiliated automaker attempting to slug it out on price and volume would have never been successful. The push to premium at least gives this independent and resource challenged business its only opportunity for long-term success.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Very nice post, I come to similar conclusions. However I do not believe Mazda will be successful in this effort, their longevity works against them. Oldsmobile tried to be “not your father’s Olds” and failed, Pontiac tried “driving excitement” but most of their product were reshaped Chevrolets and in the old days didn’t even offer the options Buick/Olds did (but this was because of how GM divisions were classified). Tesla came anew into the market and because of its development costs was able to establish itself at least as premium if not luxury. Mazda was Japanese Pontiac/Mercury/Skoda etc, I don’t think it can suddenly claim its something else and succeed. See my post above about resale and maybe its a canary in the coal mine so to speak.

      • 0 avatar
        sgeffe

        What I wonder is if there’s an eventual correction with new car prices, does that same shock hit the used market all at once?

        Example: I just bought an Accord Touring at ~$36k. Right now, it’s value is between $31k and $32k, with 500 miles and factory-fresh condition. Could that suddenly hit $25k overnight?

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          Morgan Stanley was predicting such a thing, as long as financiers will loan to anyone with a pulse I don’t think you’ll see a dent on the retail side. The bull case at the time was for things to remain the same in wholesale, bear was up to 50% decline wholesale (not likely IMO, although that SHOULD happen).

          To answer your question, I am doubtful you would see such a thing because everyone would be underwater with the stuff they have and instead of turning it over simply try to retail it to suckers while selling another model at auction which didn’t drop. Cars don’t work quite like the stock market where there can be panic selling. If I took your Accord on trade for 30, why would I or anyone else suddenly take a $5,000 loss on their product? Such a steep decline would have to happen over many weeks in my view. Now if we’re talking a situation like the VW Diesels, yes I could see overnight valuations dropping because they would become hot potatoes and guys would incur losses assuming they could even find a willing buyer at a lower price. But this sort of thing is rare to happen. Also when a marque is discontinued valuations will drop, but not overnight (I’d say about 10%). I bought my Pontiac in 2010 about a year after the announcement, and comparable Lacrosses (W) were pulling 13s. I paid 11,2 for the GP and I paid too much bc it was loaded and four guys were bidding on it to my chagrin. I was looking specifically for Our Lord 3800 and that day there were literally only 4 GPs running out of something like 2,000 cars.

          zerohedge.com/news/2017-03-31/heres-why-used-car-prices-may-crash-50

  • avatar
    volvo

    I think it is pretty smart to tart up an existing decent platform. If sales don’t hold up you haven’t invested a huge amount. My understanding is that the Mazda 3 has pretty good driving dynamics and offering a lux interior might draw in other customers.

    I imagine that leather/wood and electronics are pretty high margin. Throw in $3K of amenities and raise the price $7K. Seems like a pretty low risk proposition.

    The Mazda 3 signature sedan must be a unicorn however. The US Mazda site and Google do not have any information on such a beast. Waiting to see drivetrain and amenities offered?

    Honda should try that with the Civic and Toyota with the Corolla.

  • avatar
    Rocket

    I respect what Mazda is trying to do, but they need to address the powertrain deficiency yesterday, and the dealership experience the day before that. The RWD platform and inline six will certainly help, but that’s a long way off. I’m afraid time will run out before the lineup and dealership network are where they need them to be.

    Anybody else see the irony that former parent Ford has the exact powertrains and modular architecture Mazda needs to transform themselves quickly?

    • 0 avatar
      deanst

      I doubt Mazda would have any interest in Ford’s unreliable gas guzzling power trains.

    • 0 avatar
      TrailerTrash

      Rocket.
      I kinda agree.
      Having owned many, I was recently put off by my experience.
      I had to take my 09 6S in for a recall.
      it took two trips, both putting me in an exchange car for a days use while waiting.
      The first, a CX3.
      Pretty poor power, lovely interior…totally claustrophobic.
      Second time…a 2018 Mazda3.
      BEAUTIFUL interior.
      Beautiful color and exterior.
      But driving it, first I swore it was a 2.0. Extremely poor power and horribly loud in the morning start up. Diesel sounding for about 2 minutes.
      That Zoom Zoom?
      Gone.
      I tell all my friends how happy I am to get in my Orange Sunset 05 Mazda3 S hatch…really fun and zippy.
      PLUS I CAN SEE OUT!

      My 09 6 with the six is powerful and drives like it was made for driving fun.

      If this is the new Mazda diection…I amout.

  • avatar
    ajla

    I think CX-9 Signature pulls off “premium” reasonably well and the powertrain is acceptable for what the rest of the competition will give you these days.
    The Signature trims of the CX-5 and 6-sedan are far less convincing IMO. The 6 especially just feels like Mazda glued shiny and squishy things onto a $25K car. The Camry XSE also felt sportier.

  • avatar
    R Henry

    A “few are dissing Mazda’s upmarket plan as truly foolhardy.”

    Count me in this camp. Mazda has always had a 2-3% US market share, and nothing they do seems to move the needle. This push for “luxury” is “been there, done that” at the same moment Genesis is trying (not really succeeding) to do the cheap luxury thing.

    I believe Mazda is best when it builds middle of the road mass-market cars with that little extra special something to set it apart from the Corolla/Camcord set.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      Kinda reminds me of Cadillac, another brand that tries to portray itself as upscale luxury….

      and fails miserably.

      A long, long time ago, when I was a kid, the Cadillac name meant something, something to aspire to, the epitome of American car ownership.

      These days, not so much.

      For Mazda to have these same contractions of self-aggrandizing itself into an upmarket plan and brand is just wishful thinking.

      Mazda built fun-to-drive cars, zoom-zoom, but they aren’t upscale nor upmarket, no matter how much Mazda is a-wishin’ and a-hopin’.

      Problem is, Mazda market share in America isn’t enough to make Mazda a profitable going-concern.

      Maybe, Toyota.

      • 0 avatar
        bullnuke

        “Problem is, Mazda market share in America isn’t enough to make Mazda a profitable going-concern.” Suzuki was in a similar situation (same trend but a bit worse volume) when the plug was pulled in 2012 – poor and declining USDM market share but very good sales in the rest of the world. They cut their losses by leaving the USDM and are doing well out in the “rest of the world” today. To Mazda, Suzuki may be a Captain Ahab skewered onto a Moby Dick, rising from the deep and beckoning…beckoning….beckoning for the marque to follow.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        Cadillac’s problem in the luxury market is that they’re a newcomer, as far as I’m concerned (I just turned 40).

        When a car brand is moving upmarket, the quality needs to come first — THEN the higher prices.

        Cadillac assumed that people my age would remember the Cadillac of my grandfather’s era (GM had turned to crap by the time my father turned 40), and give them a pass on doing this slowly and carefully. But, instead we laughed at Cadillac’s ridiculous prices for their tarted up SWB Chevy Volt and moved on with life.

        Neither Cadillac nor Mazda has built a brand powerful enough to create the Veblen Goods effect. When they cost more, we don’t assume they’re worth more — because Cadillacs and Mazdas just cars.

        P.S. My Mazda5 is not a luxury car. It’s a 1990s car done right, but it’s not luxurious in any way. Every time a cylinder fires, I’m reminded of how nice my EV test drives were.

        • 0 avatar
          highdesertcat

          Cadillac used to make some fine luxury automobiles. My dad’s ‘79 Sedan de Ville had beautiful coach work AND a luxurious interior.

          It was the mechanical stuff, mostly the HT 8-6-4 V8 that sucked.

          After my dad passed away, NO ONE in my family wanted to take that lemon.

    • 0 avatar
      SPPPP

      So if Mazda is doomed to sell 2%-3% of the cars in the US, why not sell more expensive ones? Selling 400,000 cars at $28k ATP instead of 400,000 cars at $23k ATP means an extra $2,000,000,000 in revenue per year. That’s 2 BILLION dollars.

      • 0 avatar
        bullnuke

        Mazda wishes and dreams of selling 2% of the USDM total volume. It’s been down around 1.7% for several years. 3% of total volume is crack pipe thinking for them. Mazda volume is at “premium brand” levels, however, selling a bit more units than Lexus and a bit fewer units than Mercedes-Benz and BMW so they must be honing in on being a recognized “premium” brand.

  • avatar
    readallover

    As a Mazda owner for 16 years (2004 6 and a 2017 6) I think their products are a level above the norm. Fit and Finish are excellent as is longevity. But if they want to be premium they had better start listening to the consumer of premium vehicles. It took Mazda the better part of 20 YEARS to address their problems with road noise and almost as long to finally introduce the turbo. If they fall into the old Japanese manufacturer attitude of :`We will tell you what you want, not the other way around` they are in for tough times.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      ” If they fall into the old Japanese manufacturer attitude of :`We will tell you what you want, not the other way around` they are in for tough times.”

      Mazda is in trouble now.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      The really good Mazdas (quality wise) were in the late 80s-early 90s IMO. Absolutely excellent. I’m a fan of these newest ones as well. aside from the small greenhouses/squashed rooflines.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        That’s true about the 80’s Mazda cars. When my kids still lived at home, going to HS and College, I bought a used 626 and a used 929 from the lemon lot at the nearby Airbase from GIs going overseas. My kids used those cars until they graduated and left home, taking those cars with them when they joined the Marine Corps and driving them until they could afford something cool, hip and appropriate for male 20-somethings.

        Those cars were fun to drive AND they lasted for a coon’s age without needing major repair or parts replacement.

        Then again, that was before the zoom-zoom era, lighter metal body panels, higher prices and cheaper interiors.

        • 0 avatar
          gtem

          We still have our ’89 Mazda MPV in the family, 250k+ miles strong, although the sheetmetal is much worse for the wear after three decades of NE salt. 929 based with some reinforcements to the unibody, engine/rear end out of Mazda’s 1980s B-series. Sturdy as all get out, all original balljoints despite my brother using it as his mountain bike hauler on unimproved roads for years now. Even the front struts held up well past 230k miles, he finally replaced them because the lower spring perches were rusting out, struts themselves still held a charge and worked well.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            gtem, that’s amazing. They just don’t make them like they used. Not even when built in Japan these days.

            Definitely not if made in the US of A.

            When the Japanese brands (Honda, Toyota) started building them in the US, quality, longevity and durability went down the tube; most likely they were using the same crappy suppliers as Detroit’s former Big 3 were. Plenty of examples abound.

            I know several former owners of built-in-Japan vehicles who now stay away from the same brands that they swore by in the past.

  • avatar
    ABC-2000

    I had 2 Mazda’s back to back, then 2 Accords, last December, I wanted a new car and went back to Mazda, I was looking for a CX5 or 6, the dealer network sucks, they are not eager to sell you a car as if they simply don’t care.
    I had no choice and went back to Honda, got a much better deal on last 2018 EX-L 2.0T with Navi.
    I don’t think the 6 is that much better for what they asked for and for the 6 Turbo it was way too much money, I mean, BMW 3 series money.

  • avatar
    theflyersfan

    You just can’t throw some soft leather, a bigger screen, and some extra sound deadening into an average midsized car and suddenly call it “premium” or “luxury.” For a lot of buyers, luxury is an all-around feeling – smooth, yet sporty. Tech filled, yet accommodating. Attainable, yet just above the average in prices. It’s what the Germans had cornered for decades before taking the head-first plunge into the sub-$350/mo lease market with some really sad-sack vehicles.
    What Mazda has going for it is that they won’t step on any toes. I think what really hurts Acura, Infiniti, Lexus, and sometimes Audi is that the risk of them falling downwards to their more downmarket offerings is always there, and at times, happens. Mazda doesn’t have a sub-brand to feed or worry about. If they want to make these Signature lines Lexus-like with features, that’s fine, but you have to improve the entire car. Buyers want a smooth engine and transmission, not an overworked 4-cylinder. They want smooth dampening on the doors, lids, and trunk, not the hollow feeling of a $23,000 compact.
    And don’t ever lose sight of your heritage. For 30 years, it has been the MX-5, and even longer (yet off and on) with the RX-models. Bring out the RX-9 soon and take the fight to the Supra. Make that your halo car.
    I’m all for improving the dealers and the such, but Mazda for a long time has been “Zoom Zoom” and that’s what most of us think of when Mazda is mentioned. You can go upscale, but for the love of God, don’t be another generic leather-loaded crossover. Have some fun with it!

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      “You just can’t throw some soft leather, a bigger screen, and some extra sound deadening into an average midsized car and suddenly call it “premium” or “luxury.””

      Thank you. Lipstick on a pig.

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        Ford does it. If they want more money for an Escape they change the sheetmetal and add a bit nicer interior and call it a Lincoln. This is why I think Mazda would be better off coming out with a more upscale CX-5 with a different name then just charging more for an existing one

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          “more upscale CX-5 with a different name then just charging more for an existing one”

          Ah perhaps, but probably not happening due to the billion dollar costs of new platform development.

          That’s why Ford killed Mercury and made the corpse Lincoln as you point out.

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            What new platform? Same platform, different name. The Ford and Lincoln are the same platform, that was my point

      • 0 avatar
        SPPPP

        “Lipstick on a pig.”

        The thing is, Mazda has figured out how to make a really good pig. So when everyone is selling a FWD-based sedan and CUV, Mazda may be ahead in some ways.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      “You just can’t throw some soft leather, a bigger screen, and some extra sound deadening into an average midsized car and suddenly call it “premium” or “luxury.””

      Frankly the gap in refinement and chassis dynamics has narrowed to the point that I bet you’d be hard pressed to tell me what’s what if I blindfolded you and took you for a spin in a loaded up Mazda6 Signature and then a mid-grade 5 3 or 5 series Bimmer. In fact, I think the 6 in higher trims has BETTER materials than a 3 series BMW, a “premium” tier car per most peoples’ metrics.

      I was blown away by how nicely a few rental CX5 Tourings have driven in terms of NVH, interior design and quality, and ride quality. All they need is a bit more motor (and some more legroom). The former has been addressed with the optional 2.5T, the latter, well sounds like I just described a CX-9 :)

  • avatar
    tylanner

    Mazda is the best value in the market…if you don’t need stoplight power….

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    Mazda makes great vehicles, as reliable as Toyota or Honda (actually, more reliable than Honda), and they’ve come a long way in terms of NVH/sound insulation, and now that Honda and Toyota have gone with more “sporty” vehicles, Mazda is no longer at a disadvantage when it comes to those rpwanting a softer, cashier, marshmallow ride, either (think 1993-2008 Camry).

    Mazdas, also, by and large, have better exterior styling and interior ergonomics (although the new Accord probably beats the 6 in this regard).

    However, Mazda barely pushes out 2% market share in the U.S. as things stand, and the move to aggressively move their MSRP and ATPs carries massive risks. Mazda is competing in a hyper competitive segment, up against Toyota, Honda, Hyundai, Volkswagen, etc.

    It’s a huge gamble for them to try this as that 2% market share could easily fall by 25% or more given their perception, poor marketing, and poor dealer network (poor as in few and far between).

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      Wow, DW, I’ve never heard you speak so well of any car company. Mazdas must be really something for you to offer up such a balanced and sane analysis

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      He’s not wrong! My one bone to pick with them is the scrunched roofline on the 6 that really makes you lean in to sit down and between that and the high sill height are left with a less ‘airy’ cockpit than something like the current Camry. Looking at the new 3 (especially the hatchback), they are even worse offenders in this regard. But as far as refinement, ride/handling balance, and interior materials, I would put a high-trim 6 up against something like an ES350.

    • 0 avatar
      DPerkins

      A few years ago I leased a Mazda 3 GT, great car but bad dealer experience. We recently tried Mazda again when looking for a compact SUV – the CX5 was a nice ride, but again, the dealer experience was awful. For example, we asked to test the navigation/infotainment system. The sales rep said it was “on and SD card. We take them out to prevent theft, you can see it when you buy it”. He also promised to call with a firm value on our potential trade, we never heard from him again. Hard to imagine them doing a better job serving a luxury seeking buyer.

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        “The sales rep said it was “on and SD card. We take them out to prevent theft, you can see it when you buy it”

        Hahahaha, my response would have been, “… and you can see my butt as I walk out of here”

    • 0 avatar
      johnds

      With hundreds of Honda’s showing up used with 300,000-400,000 miles at auction, cars.com, etc. and literally no remarkable high mileage Mazda’s for sale I could find. If I do, they are usually Ford powered varients, I don’t see the proof. I will also say that these cars haven’t been around enough to tell if they can be as God like reliable as you state.

  • avatar
    Illan

    So i sat in a 2019 Mazda 3 premium htach last sunday. its simple and beautiful. only the new MB A class hasa bit better interior. i Think mazda approach is good. everyone has been hiking prices left and right. at least with the mazda 3 you can feel the preimum.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Mazda would be further along if they had quit spending precious resources on rotary engine development 10 years ago.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    As Peter M. DeLorenzo would say, they’re stuck in Near Luxury Hell.

  • avatar
    buffaloboxster

    Every Mazda I’ve ever driven has been fun to drive. I had a CX-7 in the mid 2000s and it was great. Well built, peppy, well appointed and reasonably priced. Today, in 2019 the cars need more power. These are the days of 300hp Camrys, and Mazda’s most potent engine is 250hp. That doesn’t cut it when you’re trying to compete against the Germans whose stripper trims come with 250hp and premium trims outgun you by 100hp or more. Even if you make the argument that they’re aiming for a segment below BMW/Audi/MB, you can get 300hp in the Volvo XCs, the Acura RDX has 25hp more and the MDX comes with 40 more in base trim.

    Mazdas are better looking and as luxurious or more in their upscale trims, but driving dynamics matter in this segment and for a company that used to pride itself on how their cars drive, they’ve been strapped for power for going on a decade now.

    • 0 avatar
      volvo

      In bay area california you can have the extra horsepower but between traffic congestion (even mountain roads), safety and enforcement you won’t get much chance to use it. I do see drivers weaving through traffic and overtaking other cars on both the left and right at 50% faster than the posted limit so maybe they need the extra horsepower.

      Same thing pretty much in southern california and the Seattle area which I am also familiar with.

      For me drivetrain refinement and handling is more important than horsepower.

      Even “the loneliest highway”, US 50 through central Nevada, has become hundred of miles of heavily enforced highway with rather low posted limits.

      • 0 avatar
        turbo_awd

        Depends on when you drive, though.. My wife wants something “zippy” to get around in traffic – her minivan is too big with all the bike lanes going up that are squishing our lanes smaller. However, she likes the POWER of the Pentastar. 0-60 of the van is ~7.5-7.8. The 3 is right in the ballpark, but she doesn’t like the new “surround” interior – she had a 2005 3 for ~5 years, and loved that. Sadly, that car was quicker (compared to traffic in general) than a new 3 would be, so we’re looking at a GTI for her. If they put the turbo in the 3 with an auto, it would be a really strong competitor.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        I consider having (much) more power than you “need” to be a luxury feature.

        • 0 avatar
          volvo

          Pretty clever reply. I can’t argue with your position.

        • 0 avatar
          Lie2me

          Reminds me of the old Rolls Royce ad that highlighted all it’s bespoke features when it came to horsepower the ad said “adequate”

          That really sums it up for me, a luxury car should always have enough power to do what a luxury car owner would want it to do. If you want it to win races then you didn’t want a luxury car and if you want it to get 30mpg then, again, you don’t want a luxury car

      • 0 avatar
        buffaloboxster

        Yeah I get it but a) SoCal isn’t the entire US auto market and b) if you back-to-back test two midsize SUVs, and one is down 40hp it’s going to feel underpowered. Doubly so if the vehicle comes from a brand that used to be known for driving dynamics, and is now aiming upmarket. I live in an urban area where I can’t do more than 35, but I still appreciate the extra power in my S4 over the two-liter A6 I had as a loaner.

        I think Mazda could actually be successful in this strategy, but only if they’re up 25hp, not down.

  • avatar
    Acd

    Increasing revenue through higher transaction prices is essential for Mazda to be able to survive as an independent auto manufacturer. They need to sell more $50,000 SUV’s and fewer $20,000 3’s if they have any hope for long term survival.

    They are smart to make their interiors noticeably nicer than the competition which makes their cars appear more up-scale and justifies the higher prices.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    Mazda needs to take a good look at Volkswagen, whose premium, luxury, and near-luxury cars we don’t get anymore. They were all inappropriate for our market and cost too much money.

    The B7 Passat (which by the way, was not on the B platform)? Very nice, but compromised, expensive, and unreliable. Cue the NMS Passat in 2012, which was larger, but not nearly as nice. Moreover, the all-new 2020 Passat is a re-skin of the outgoing model, with some glaringly-outdated hard points, like the instrument cluster and handbrake.

    The Touareg? Nice, but a Grand Cherokee matches it for the same or less money, with better AWD systems to boot. Besides, what VW really needed was a three-row SUV. So now we have the Atlas, a competent offering that nevertheless does little more than tick off a bunch of “Made for America” checkboxes, with none of the styling panache of its European-designed counterparts.

    The old Tiguan? A veritable sport hatch on stilts, but expensive, cramped and a gas hog. So now we get the long-wheelbase version of the new model…replete with a single boring engine that’s a bit more efficient (and still worse than its competitors in that regard), but not nearly as fun.

    The Jetta has been similarly distilled down to What Will Sell, with the exception of the spendy GLI.

    And I’ve heard rumors we just aren’t going to get the regular Golf for the Mk.8 version. It’ll either be the GTI or the Golf R. The SportWagen is also going bye-bye. Hopefully, the next current American Golf R, like the outgoing one, will be imported from Europe, with European levels of content.

    The less said about the Phaeton, the better.

    The only premium car that Volkswagen really sells is the new Arteon, which will almost certainly be a flop when a Charger R/T or Stinger GT can be had for similar prices (or even a lightly-equipped A5 Sportback or 4 Series Gran Coupe).

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      I’ll offer the counter-point that Mazda desperately needs SOMETHING to differentiate themselves from Honda/Toyota etc in their offerings, they tried overtly sporty dynamics (at the expense of NVH) and Americans certainly did not really appreciate that. They’re now trying the “posher interiors and driving experience” and I think this has more legs. I see CX5s EVERYWHERE (including a ton of dumping into fleets, granted). i feel like I’ve noticed an uptick of newer Mazda6s as well, in high end trim, where I never used to see the original ’14 car around much at all. Of course this is all highly anecdotal.

  • avatar
    autoguy

    I think Mazda has no choice but to try to find a niche market, but for some reason it refuses or is slow to add premium features that its competition offers The 2019 Mazda 3 is good example, the highest premium trim has a lot of good features like heated seats, huds, leather seats, but no ventilated seats, rear a/c vents, dual clutch transmissions, turbo engine,panoramic sunroof (and of course while the CX-5 Signature has almost all of these it does not have a panoramic sunroof and like almost all mazdas is usually near the bottom for interior and cargo room (rear seats are usually too cramped). I find it strange that Mazda leadership seems to think adding more power (ie. Mazdaspeed is childish (premium buyers like myself expect more power) For a premium vehicle the Mazda 3 is underpowered. For all of its merits, its hard sell (for Mazda) when you can buy a 2020 Kia Forte Gt which has a 201 hp turbo a 7 speed dual clutch transmission, heated and ventilated seats, and a
    multilink rear suspension for thousands less than the 3 which does not have any of these desirable features. I own 3 mazdas and although I would like to buy another one it seems Mazda will be to slow to address the foregoing deficiencies in there products. Mazda has loss its way as in its push for luxury the cars are not as fun to drive anymore. It really saddens me that Mazda top leadership calls the mazdaspeed childish as he obviously doesn’t understand that premium also equates to performance (ie. lots of power and great handling). If you want to sell more cars you do need to have more performance trims of your mainstream cars (that is what get customers into the showrooms) Kia/Hyundai smartly recognizes this and have GT, N lines, Ford has STs, and they have halo cars like the Ford GT, sporty cars like Mustangs, Corvettes, Supras, Subaru has WRXs, Honda has the civic SI, and R, Kia has the Stinger. Mazda has absolutely nothing to compete with the foregoing. The Mx-5 is fun but it really is too small (many of us cannot comfortably fit in it (I am only 6 feet tall and I find the headroom insufficient for me) and it really could a more powerful engine option)and come on no glovebox?


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