Thank Heaven for Little (but Not Too Little) Crossovers: At Mazda, One Segment Didn't Disappoint

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

Too bad about the others. After admitting that it probably should have reconsidered the new-for-2019 Mazda 3’s U.S. pricing strategy, the Hiroshima-based automaker can sit back and look at last year’s results in full. Topping that page is a 7.2 percent sales decline — the result of volume slippage among all nameplates but one.

Nothing beats a compact crossover for surefire popularity.

We shouldn’t say that — recall, if you will, the Infiniti QX50 saga. Happily for Mazda, its continuously improved CX-5 crossover can’t seem to make an enemy, be it among the motoring press or the buying public.

In 2019, the CX-5 was the only Mazda-badged model to post a sales gain — a slim jump of 2.6 percent for the year — proving once again that the CX-5’s appeal is the broadest of any model in Mazda’s modest lineup. Recent additions like a turbocharged 2.5-liter engine, a 2.2-liter diesel (the jury’s out on this long-delayed mill’s draw), and styling and content alterations has only positioned the model for further success. Since its introduction in 2012, the CX-5 has managed to add volume each year. Now, with brandwide volume on the decline, the CX-5’s presence is growing in other ways, too.

Last year, 55.5 percent of all Mazdas leaving dealer lots were CX-5s. A year ago, the model’s take was an almost even 50 percent.

Elsewhere in the lineup, products couldn’t catch a break. The 3’s well documented fall from grace following an attractive refresh and addition of all-wheel drive continued apace. Volume for the compact sedan and hatch fell 39.8 percent in December, pushing its full-year total 21.5 percent below 2018’s tally. The subcompact CX-3 and larger, more opulent CX-9 fell 4 and 4.9 percent, respectively, for the year.

Mazda MX-5 buyers weren’t seeking as many two-seat thrills last year, with the lightweight fun machine finding 13.6 percent fewer adopters. The still-sexy 6 sedan, updated with an optional turbo engine too late in its lifespan, posted a 30-percent drop in 2019. Nothing more needs to be said of the state of the mainstream midsize sedan market; you all know the grim reality of that segment.

As disappointing as the 3’s 2019 sales plunge is to Mazda brass, there’s a silver lining to be found in the full-year sales sheet: the appearance of a new model in the form of the tweener CX-30. Adding sales only in the final days of November, the CX-30 is months away from being up to speed, so we don’t yet know its impact on the overall sales picture. The additional volume the CX-30 stands to deliver is no doubt appreciated at Mazda HQ, and there’s more to come.

A new Mazda crossover will roll out of a joint Alabama assembly plant shared with Toyota next year. It’s assumed the vehicle will target a broad swath of society in the midsize or near-midsize realm, capturing would-be buyers who find the CX-5 too small and the CX-9 too tony. That latter model stands to gain a revamp for 2022, potentially growing in size to make more room for the new member of the Mazda clan.

[Images: Mazda]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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  • Joc6812 Joc6812 on Jan 08, 2020

    Two major problems will prevent Mazda success, and it's not their cars. Dealer network: sparse and shitty. Everywhere I've lived in the USA the Mazda place was always the most run down facility with the sleaziest sales people and worst service. You can't go "upscale" with that. National Incentives: Their financing and leasing programs, when they offer them, are a joke. They just don't want to play in this space, where a huge number of vehicle buying decisions are made. No matter how good their products may be, all aspects of the customer experience need major overhaul if they're going to be relevant.

  • Namesakeone Namesakeone on Jan 08, 2020

    Unfortunately, I think the turbo engines and CVTs are here to stay, simply because of corporate fuel economy standards. And manual transaxles are probably on their way out, because (as has been stated above), the take rate of people who actually enjoy driving is so low; everyone seems to want cars that drive themselves. More time on the iphone (or for whatever the boss is making you do), you see? I hope Mazda still has a future.

  • Charles The UAW makes me the opposite of patriotic
  • El scotto Wranglers are like good work boots, you can't make them any better. Rugged four wheel drive vehicles which ironically make great urban vehicles. Wagoneers were like handbags desired by affluent women. They've gone out of vogue. I can a Belgian company selling Jeep and Ram Trucks to a Chinese company.
  • El scotto So now would be a good time to buy an EV as a commuter car?
  • ToolGuy $1 billion / 333.3 million = $3 per U.S. person ¶ And what do I get for my 3 bucks -- cleaner air and lower fuel prices? I might be ok with this 🙂🙂
  • VoGhost Matt, I'm curious why you write that inventory levels are low at 74 days. Typically, 60 days is the benchmark for normal inventory.