By on October 2, 2019

2019 Mazda Mazda3 rear quarter

If you’re a regular on these digital pages, you probably read how the revamped-for-2019 Mazda 3 is a very different beast depending on which side of the border one resides. The Canada-U.S. border, that is. Eager to keep cheapskates entry-level car lovers in a certain province satisfied, Mazda Canada saw fit to offer buyers greater choice than Americans enjoy down south, coupled with a very non-premium starting price.

Good stuff, in this writer’s books.

However, despite both countries having access to sedan and five-door variants, both offered with Mazda’s weather-conquering i-Activ all-wheel drive system, the Mazda 3’s Canadian sales trajectory doesn’t differ from that of its U.S. counterpart.

If you think the U.S. market is cooling fast, it’s nothing compared to Canada’s. This year will not be remembered for setting any records. And nor will Mazda, which, at the end of September, found itself down 12.5 percent over last year’s volume in the Great White North.

So close is the relationship between the two countries that you’ll find a nearly identical situation south of the border. Mazda’s U.S. sales ended last month down 11.5 percent, year to date. No Mazda model can boast of a YTD sales gain down there, and only one, the CX-5, can brag about rising sales in Canada. Even that victory, at 0.7 percent, is slimmer than Celine Dion (no offense intended).

Indeed, the last time a Mazda model posted a TYD gain in the U.S. was in January, when the 6 sedan recorded a slight year-over-year uptick in sales. This, of course, does not count as a true YTD volume gain; a month later, the lead was gone.

Sales data guru Tim Cain called out the fourth-generation Mazda 3 last week, placing the revamped model’s failure to launch in stark terms. While falling car sales are not unique to Mazda, the brand seems to be having a harder time luring buyers into showrooms than the likes of Honda and Toyota, despite the addition of all-wheel grip. And, if anyone harbored concerns that ditching the 3’s base engine and offering fewer stick shifts negatively impacted the 3, let Canadian data put your fears to rest.

North of the border, the 3, offered with an entry-level 2.0-liter Skyactiv-G four-cylinder as well as the standard 2.5-liter seen in the U.S., doesn’t relegate manual transmissions strictly to a single uplevel, sports-oriented model. Pricing starts quite low as a result — considerably lower than in the almost-always-cheaper U.S.

And yet last month — a period admittedly containing fewer selling days than 2018, plus a truncated Labor Day long weekend — saw 3 sales fall 26.4 percent, year over year. Through September, sales of the new 3 fell 18.8 percent.

In the States, September saw the 3 decline 24.3 percent, with its year-to-date tally now down some 21 percent. You can spice up a model or dress it down all you like, but the same forces seem to be at work regardless of where the 3 is sold.

If AWD cars can’t make headway against the great car decline, there’s only one thing left to do — and Mazda’s already on it. The CX-30 crossover appears late this year or early next, offering buyers a new utility choice slotted between the low-volume CX-3 subcompact and popular CX-5 compact. A year and change after that, Mazda’s joint Alabama plant comes online. From that Toyota-shared facility, expect a larger crossover built with North American preferences in mind.

The sound you hear is a gathering wind preparing to fill Mazda’s flaccid sails.

[Images: © 2019 Chris Tonn/TTAC, Mazda]

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24 Comments on “Greater Engine and Transmission Choice Didn’t Change the Mazda 3’s Cross-border Fortunes One Bit...”

  • avatar

    A couple years ago, Mazda decided to go “upscale”. They dropped the 2 from the lineup (and handed it to Toyota as the new Yaris) and bumped the 3 up to premium pricing. $21.5k is the starting point for a 3, vs. $19.6 for a Corolla or $17.7k for an Elantra.

    I am shocked! Shocked, let me tell you, that Mazda isn’t doing well.

  • avatar

    Mazda must be the brand that’s most recommended by people who never buy them

    and as for “premium” brand, good luck w/ that, it’s much easier going down market than going up market and Mazda doesn’t have the product to go up market

    I suspect that Mazda will be absorbed by Toyota at some point because its situation isn’t getting any better

    • 0 avatar

      “Mazda must be the brand that’s most recommended by people who never buy them.”

      I will admit that I am one of those people. I recommend the used Mazda 5 fairly often to folks with families who need something fuel-efficient and need or want a few extra seats. I did not put my money where my mouth is – I have a Caravan and an F-150.

  • avatar

    Isn’t the whole point of a compact car to get less car for less money? I like the styling of the 3 but would be willing to spend 5k less than what they are asking. Base + 2.5L + manual. No driver aid tech or fancy screens – knobs and buttons with manual seats and bubble wrap taped to the bumpers.

    • 0 avatar

      The point of an ECONOMY car is to get less car for less money. Also key to an ECONOMY car is a low cost of ownership: infrequent repairs, cheap maintenance, excellent fuel economy and durability (of paint, upholstery, buttons and switches). A compact car is not, by definition, an economy car (see Mercedes’ A-Class or the 5.0 Fox Mustang), though economy cars are almost always small.

      I would say that almost no auto manufacturer makes a true economy car these days. They’d rather push more and more unreliable tech into them, raising purchase prices and lowering reliability.

  • avatar

    Mazda needs a desirable product if they wish to ask a premium, the only product that Mazda is known for is the Miata, which is the last product they need to raise the price on.
    Is the 3 a bad car? No, IMO it has the best engine in the entire compact segment, but in a world of 4 cylinders that’s not saying much. Compact segment is the most price conscious segment.
    Buying the best compact option is like choosing the best execution method, your not winning no matter what way you look at it.

    • 0 avatar
      Daniel J

      Exactly what premium are they asking? Look at a Civic Touring and Mazda 3 without AWD. About the same price. Want AWD? Look at the Impreza Limited and add the packages just to get it close to the 3 Premium and guess what? Similar price.

      As I posted in the other article, has anyone actually built and spec’d out the competition? Mazda in some cases is CHEAPER.

      • 0 avatar

        Yea, but Impreza is not really a car. Sort of, body on 4 wheels. Where is power, handling, etc?
        The reason I used to buy Mazda is that for the small $$ I could buy great-handling car with minimal options. But Mazda seriously took away almost all the qualities that I liked about it. Mazda already had best interiors in segment, I don’t car if they have brilliant one this time. Too much $$$

  • avatar

    Funny how for a while there it looked like Mazda was poised to overtake VW only to see their sales start falling off the cliff shortly thereafter.

    I wouldn’t be ringing the death knell quite yet but the way they’re trending even the likes of Mitsubishi could soon be chasing them down.

  • avatar

    “The CX-30 crossover appears late this year or early next, offering buyers a new utility choice slotted between the low-volume CX-3 subcompact and popular CX-5 compact. ”

    So we’ll offer a new sub-compact to complement our low volume sub-compact, or are we going to pretend the CX3 is now a sub-sub compact?

    Double secret probation…

  • avatar

    Just some context,

    The previous Mazda3 was a fairly successful car in Canada. You see lots of them on the road, and it offered something nimble, taut and beautiful looking in a way that current Civic isn’t. More or less, the Mazda3 was our current generation Acura Integra.

    Here’s the thing: Most of them are the 2.0l variant; that’s right most of the cars went to plebs, not sporty dudes looking for a 2.5l.

    Basically, the current generation is an answer to a question that nobody asked. In the market were the Mazda3 actually did ok, most of the people buying it were looking for commuter cars, not enthusiast cars. Maybe a little more sporty commuter car, but a commuter nonetheless. Going upscale and adding awd actually moves this away from what made the 3 strong in the Canadian market.

  • avatar

    Other issues hashed in old thread…

    But is there a supply issue with this car? Bad mix?

    Seems rather odd. All the other Mazda issues haven’t really changed in the past year or whatever, so it has to be something with this particular car…

    • 0 avatar

      I know for a while some of the new generation were coming from Japan, but I don’t know the percentage mix. I have to wonder if it’s taking the facility in Mexico a bit of time to ramp up.

      I’m watching how Mazda does since I’m smack in the middle of my lease, but won’t get my knickers in a knot until I’m closer to having to put my nickel down on buying out or trading. The pros/cons of each are shifting every time I start thinking about it, but I have time. The 2.0 Accord Sport is still in the wings, maybe with a facelift by 2021.

  • avatar

    It must be acknowledged that the new 3 is a predictable sales failure, especially considering the styling of the hatch version which even Mazda true believers find unattractive. Moving the brand upmarket is another very questionable move considering they have always been perceived as a cut below Honda and Toyota in terms of quality and refinement. I do not see long-term success for Mazda and think these missteps make it likely they get merged into another carmaker before too long.

  • avatar

    1. They are too expensive relative to the demographic currently buying a small hatch/sedan.
    2. Their dealers are not good. Secondary locations and low end levels of service
    3. The sky active engines are not refined enough (especially at startup) for a near luxury product.

  • avatar

    Also mentioned in response to the other article: We know the overall vehicle market is shrinking. Mazda can’t do anything that. Also, the market for cars is cratering. Also, Mazda can’t do anything about that.

    Therefore, the measure for this car should be market share, not total sales. Market share filters out both the shrinkage of the overall market and the compact car segment. It tells you Mazda’s delta in success/failure at capturing the sales for this type of car. That metric would also be informative to measure the effect of dropping the 2.0L engine in the US. (I personally thought it would cost them a third of their 3 sales.)

    Also noted in response to the other article, if their move upmarket results in larger profit per vehicle sold, then they can get by with less volume. They seem to have gotten good take rates for their highest level trims, so that part of the strategy seems to be working. And dropping the 2 (giving it to Toyota) also appears to be a good move. But dropping their lowest trims in the 3 could be a mistake.

    Also, the new CX-30 is almost the same size as the 3. It’s the same width but a bit shorter in wheelbase & OAL IIRC. It’s more upright and has more cargo space, *AND IT DOESN’T HAVE THAT AWFUL REAR WINDOW PROBLEM*. When they start selling the CX-30, expect the 3 hatch to take another nose-dive.

    • 0 avatar

      > We know the overall vehicle market is shrinking.

      Very true, but in the context of Canada, less disposable income and a larger proportion of the population living in urban centres means that compact cars are still viable here relative to CUV’s.

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