By on February 5, 2020

2020 Mazda 3 hatchback grey - Image: MazdaFinally, Mazda appears to be on something of a roll. After U.S. volume at the underdog automaker tumbled to a seven-year low in 2019, January 2020 sales at Mazda jumped 18 percent.

Better yet, January marked the fourth consecutive month of year-over-year gains at Mazda, an essential turnaround for a marque that kicked off 2019 with seven consecutive months of decline. Over the last four months, Mazda’s U.S. sales actually grew by nearly 9,000 sales, a 10-percent uptick.

So, all is well? If Mazda sustains this level of volume growth over the next 11 months, Mazda would follow up its seven-year low from 2019 with a 26-year annual sales high.

The chance for major growth will most definitely fall on the shoulders of the new CX-30, because the fourth-generation Mazda 3’s tragically awful 2019 was followed up by a January in which the 3 rolled over and played dead. 

Not since 1990 had sales of the Mazda 3 (or its predecessors) fallen to such low levels. Despite obvious improvements, all-wheel-drive availability, and a shrinking pool of small-car rivals, only 50,741 copies of the 3 found homes in the U.S. in 2019. Mazda’s upmarket intentions, most obviously evidenced by the departure of the 3’s entry-level engine, were partly to blame for Mazda 3 sales falling to less than half of 2015’s output. Compared with an already disappointing 2018, Mazda 3 sales last year were down by more than a fifth.

Now, compared to that dreadful kickoff in 2019, Mazda 3 sales in January 2020 plunged even further, tumbling by nearly half to only 2,496 units. January’s Mazda 3 total fell nearly 1,000 units shy of 2019’s worst monthly total. (Over the last decade, the Mazda 3’s January tally has averaged over 6,800 units.) TTAC Mazda USA Sales Chart January 2020 - Image: © TTACYet every other vehicle in the Mazda lineup – yes, even the Mazda 6 – reported significant year-over-year improvements in January 2020. Excluding the 3 and new CX-30, Mazda sales were up 21 percent thanks to an 18-percent CX-3 rise, a 21-percent CX-5 increase, a 37-percent CX-9 improvement, an 8-percent Mazda 6 uptick, and 14-percent growth from the MX-5 Miata. It was the best January ever for both the CX-5 and CX-9.

It was, however, just January. Merely January. Only January. If ever there was a month on the auto sales calendar that didn’t matter, a month on which few theories could be based and scarcely any trends could be projected, January would be it. Not since 2008, when the year ended in recession, has January failed to secure its rightful position as the lowest-volume auto sales month in the United States. January will account for 8.5 percent of the year, but not likely 7 percent of the year’s auto sales. 2020 Mazda CX30 Soul Red - Image: MazdaOf course, we don’t need January 2020 to tell us that the latest Mazda 3 failed to launch. And we don’t need January to show us that the 3-based CX-30, with its elevated ride height and a starting price that makes it more affordable than the 3 hatchback, has a much better chance of success. Already, in an abbreviated early sales month with limited availability, the CX-30’s 2,368-unit output was very nearly enough to make the 3 Mazda’s No. 4 model. (Yes, the CX-5 and the CX-9 flagship outsold the 3, too.)

Following in the footsteps of more-spacious-than-subcompact small crossovers such as the Subaru Crosstrek and Nissan Rogue Sport, the CX-30 is aimed squarely at a gigantic bullseye that’d be hard for any automaker to miss. It’s a segment that, over the last half-decade, doubled in size and then doubled in size twice more. While the new Mazda 3, unlike the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla, has proven incapable of gaining the upper hand in a small car segment suddenly devoid of domestic competition, the CX-30 is poised to join the CX-5 as a high-volume Mazda.

If so, Mazda’s January will be remembered as an effective harbinger.

If not, Mazda will look back and wonder how they bungled it, back to back.

[Images: Mazda]

Timothy Cain is a contributing analyst at The Truth About Cars and Driving.ca and the founder and former editor of GoodCarBadCar.net. Follow on Twitter @timcaincars and Instagram.

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

Recommended

48 Comments on “Finally, Mazda Starts Off 2020 on the Right Foot With a U.S. Sales Surge – but the Mazda 3 Disaster Reaches New Proportions...”


  • avatar
    gtem

    Their upmarket push and insistence on selling a compact car with a tight rear seat and tiny windows in a class where everyone is moving towards 37+ inches of rear legroom, for a premium, is taking the expected path.

    I will say they look really sharp in person. But as close as they might be getting to the 3 series leasemobiles in design and refinement, the badge intenders will never pay attention (because it’s a Mazda). Everyone else would rather buy a cheaper, roomier, Korean, Nissan, Toyota, etc.

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      Corolla has small leg room in the back

      • 0 avatar
        gtem

        Yes the Corolla has regressed a crazy amount for 2020, maybe they thought it was odd that the 2019 had more rear legroom than a Camry(!). The hatchback is even more tight, classic case of bringing over a European market car.

        • 0 avatar
          SPPPP

          I think these product designers need to consider their use cases more carefully. Who wants a cheap practical vehicle? There’s more than one answer, but one of the biggest answers must be: Young families with small children. They *need* rear seat space for rear-facing car seats. It’s very hard to find anything that meets these two simple requirements – cheap and has lots of rear legroom.

          • 0 avatar
            gtem

            “It’s very hard to find anything that meets these two simple requirements – cheap and has lots of rear legroom.”

            Au contraire, there’s a lot of small cars, even in the subcompact class, that ace this requirement. Versa was perhaps the first to offer this, the Fit in its latest generation likewise traded in cargo space for a 37 inch rear legroom measurement. Nissan’s Sentra likewise offers huge rear legroom since 2013, The Jettas have been strong here as well for a while. The redesigned 2016 Cruze grew a lot in rear legroom from the first generation. Civic these days is at 37+ inches as well, although they’re not necessarily super cheap.

            This makes Mazda’s consistent LACK of legroom in the 3, but more importantly even the CX5, a real puzzler. I know many people that have walked away from the CX5 due to the inability to accommodate a rear-facing child seat and still fit any sort of average sized adult in the front seat.

          • 0 avatar
            dividebytube

            Indeed. I was really surprised by the amount of rear legroom in the 2019 Jetta rental I had last year.

          • 0 avatar
            SPPPP

            gtem, thanks for the list of budget priced vehicles with better legroom. I guess there are a few more than I thought. I had forgotten about the Jetta, for one. The Mazda 3 and CX-3 clock in at 35.1 inches, which strikes me as borderline acceptable.

            However, the CX-5 measures almost 40 inches rear legroon, according to Edmunds, which should be pretty good. I haven’t had the chance to put a rear-facing seat in one. Is there something about the shape of the seats that makes it more difficult?

  • avatar
    slavuta

    I am most happy for Mazda6.

  • avatar
    JMII

    Question: Who is going to buying a 3 hatch when the 30 is now available? The answer: nobody. I guess the 3 sedan has a place in their lineup, but the hatch is no longer necessary since the CUV arrived.

    • 0 avatar
      banzairx7

      All of us who find CUV’s offensive. Oh ya I’d love to have a higher center of gravity and more weight to make everyday handling worse, especially in emergency situations. Fantastic idea….

    • 0 avatar
      nlinesk8s

      I’m nobody then. My wife tried the crossovers and found them cramped and more expensive. We bought the 3GT and never regretted it.

  • avatar
    slavuta

    Now, Mazda… Make Mazda6 all-road/cross-country/trail

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      https://www.autoblog.com/buy/1999-Subaru-Legacy-30th_Ann._SUS_Ltd__4dr_4WD_Sedan/photos/

      Please god no, not another one…

      • 0 avatar
        slavuta

        I did not mean that. I literally meant a wagin like Outback. Kind what they did with CX30 only make it CX60. Like audi/volvo rugged wagons

        • 0 avatar
          PrincipalDan

          Give me a 6 wagon (I’m fine with FWD and the 2.5T) and I won’t fuss at getting an Outback Competitor. If I ever got an Outback I’d have to give the sucker at least a 2 in suspension drop to get the handling benefits of a low COG.

  • avatar
    dougjp

    +1, as gtem said. If a couple looks at a 3 GT, the odds are very high at least one of them will say no because of the lack of visibility.

    Another thing is going upscale with the 3 and forgetting to put in an optional engine that qualifies, competitively, as being upscale. A “signature” engine, if you excuse the pun. The 6 has it, maybe that’s helping its sales?

    • 0 avatar
      digitaldoc

      If Mazda wants to be the Audi of Asian cars, they need some more engines in the lineup. The 2.5NA is simply unexceptional, and not enough to get any enthusiasts excited. A small 6-cylinder, or the turbo 4 would fix this obvious issue. As they head towards premium, the powertrain has to match.

    • 0 avatar
      Kendahl

      I was very interested in the 3 hatchback until I learned that it was powered by a 186 hp four. With the extra weight and drag of all wheel drive, that’s equivalent to our Focus SE’s 160 hp. The 250 hp turbo four would be adequate although less than spectacular.

  • avatar
    StudeDude

    I believe that discounts and incentives for leftover 2019 models are probably a primary reason for the uptick. A local dealer which has 3 Mazda stores lists discounts of $4650 for base CX5s with AWD and is sold out of the 2019 Mazda6. The base 3s have up to $5850 off. If they still won’t sell with that number, the CX30 will have to make up the difference.

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    It sure is a fine thing they gave away 20k+ Mazda2 sales to Toyota, who sells it as a Yaris.

  • avatar
    cprescott

    Apparently the buyers of Mazduh’s buy with their eyes open. Hideous does not sell to them. Toyoduh and Honduh buyers are immune to ugliness and they buy more of the hideous offerings than when the vehicles didn’t cause your eyes to bleed looking at them.

  • avatar
    Ol Shel

    Perhaps Mazda needs to re-brand itself, as something other than ‘Mazda’. They make great cars, and nobody cares. Forget the 3; people don’t want small cars. Of course its sales are falling. Mazda has to look beyond creating a better product, because the public doesn’t really want a better product. They want to buy into something with amazing reliability (Toyota,Honda) or something safe with ‘love’ (Subaru). Mazda is no longer known for ‘Zoom,Zoom’, so what does it stand for? I don’t know, and the public doesn’t either. Why choose them over the others? Other than the fact that I like an underdog, no reason. Most people hate underdogs.

    Mazda needs P.R., not better vehicles.

  • avatar
    lastwgn

    For the month of January 2020, combined 3 and CX-30 totals 4,864. An increase over the 4,596 for the 3 in January 2019. If I am Mazda, I am very happy with the results. Same platform, same assembly line, and the reduction in the 3 is being absorbed by the higher margin CX-30. Seems like a huge win to me! Rather than toss money and discounts at the subcompact car buyer that is searching through the bargain end of the new car population, remain focused on the premium strategy. If the 3 continues to decline but does not need incentive support to maintain even 40,000 units a year, while the CX-30 cleans up and makes up the volume at a higher transaction price per unit, that sounds like a solid business plan. Would it be great to have higher volume from both the 3 and the CX-30? Yes. But that is not what the car buying public wants at this moment. If they are shopping subcompact car, they will be very price sensitive. Mazda’s premium strategy is based upon the premise that if you cannot profit with high volume – which they have shown is not realistic for Mazda – then the profits MUST come from higher transaction price. Period. Mazda’s premium move is necessary for their survival. They cannot compete on price and volume with the volume brands. Lease on our CX-5 is ending in July. As empty nesters, the CX-30 is looking like a fantastic next car.

    • 0 avatar
      bullnuke

      “They cannot compete on price and volume with the volume brands.” – I hear this a lot as an excuse for poor USDM sales. There much more to their problems than their volume. They are getting their butts kicked by a smaller brand that sells half of Mazda’s volume worldwide – Subaru, a brand that outsold them in the USDM by 410k+ vehicles in 2019. Mazda would be better served by focusing outside the USDM where folks seem to appreciate them more as well as where the majority of their volume currently sells.

  • avatar
    thornmark

    Mazda is benefitting from the collapse of Nissan, Nissan’s incentives were destroying Mazda

    Plus Mazda’s incentives are huge on all the old stuff they couldn’t move

    the Mazda3 sure is fugly

  • avatar
    banzairx7

    We are a Mazda family where we currently own a Mazda6 and a Mazda3. There are two reasons we aren’t replacing our 2014 3 with a new mazda 3. First and biggest one is the lack of a manual transmission in anything but the top end hatchback. The second is the straight axle rear suspension. This is a huge step backwards as much as Mazda is trying to say it’s an improvement.

  • avatar
    Alasdair

    Mazda may have gone upmarket with the 3 in terms of pricing, but in terms of handling it went downmarket by replacing a multi-link rear suspension with a cheaper torsion beam setup. That meant that the 3 lost a unique selling point, which I’m sure has had a significant impact on sales.

  • avatar
    Polka King

    “Underdog Japanese manufacturer”?
    How can that be? All the look-at-me-I’m-johnny-race-car reviewers love Mazdas to death.

    Which, just now coming to think about it, might be a real thing.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    Mazda’s recent moves truly baffle me

    They have been partnered with Toyota for a while who has basically begged the whole industry to use its hybrid IP for free. Instead of taking the obvious route of hybridizing their 2.0 & 2.5, they dump money and resources into Skyactiv-D, X and the 2.5T- the former 2 of which have basically flopped.

    They kill the 3’s ace- its driving dynamics- and then add insult to injury with the new CX-30. Which also seems to render the CX-3 redundant. Thankfully they’ve at least turned their US sales slide around. But they have made some silly powertrain moves in the last few years

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      “Which also seems to render the CX-3 redundant”

      I think the manufacturers have learned that you can slice the crossoverpie into a billion pieces and the public gobbles it all up. They seemingly can do no wrong here.

  • avatar
    theraiderhater

    I have owned THREE Mazda3’s. All hatchbacks. A normal (non turbo) Mazda3 GT and two Mazdaspeed3’s. I would buy another Speed3 in a second. But NOT This car. So ugly and GUTLESS its beyond description to me. Plus “solid beam” cheapo Chevy Cobalt rear suspension? Are you kidding? Having the Speed3 in their lineup gave regular3 owners something to aspire to. Something to move up to. This is who bought the 3 Hatch. The Mazda3 is just pointless now.

  • avatar
    redav

    We all know conventional car sales are imploding.

    The number that should be reported is what’s happening to the Mazda3’s market share for the segment. A car could see reduced sales but still gain market share, meaning it’s doing a better job winning over what few buyers remain.

    However, market share only makes the 3 look less bad.
    – I expected they’d lose a big chunk of their sales when they dropped the base engine. They’ve had a lot of success with moving people into their higher trims, and the 2.5L always had a healthy take-rate, but cutting off the majority of buyers (and cutting their ability to advertise higher mpg numbers and low price tag) has to hurt.
    – The 3 hatch is ugly. I thought it was ugly in photos, but I reserved judgement until seeing it in person. And yes, it’s ugly. The CX-30 looks much better, even with the plastic cladding. That new SUV will cannibalize what’s left of the 3. But people want taller cars, so offering the CX-30 seems to be a good call. (They HAVE to get more leg space in the back, though.)
    – They made such a big deal about Sky-X, but they didn’t bring it to the US. I actually don’t fault them on it–for now. The 2.0L Sky-X has a 45% to 60% take rate in other markets because those don’t have the 2.5L. Those buyers get more power AND more efficiency, so they’re willing to pay more for it. Americans won’t pay more for less power/torque to get better mpg. The US needs a 2.5L Sky-X. Offer that as an upgrade engine in the 3, 6, CX-30, & CX-5. THAT will make their products compelling, create good buzz, increase sales, and increase margins. IMO, that is a more important engine for them than a 3.0L straight 6.

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      Where I live here (general area), Mazda3 is a king. There are a lot of them. But do you know which gen is the most popular – 2nd. I see multiple examples every day. I even see more samples of 1st gen than 3rg gen. I might saw only 1 of the latest model. But 2nd gen is everywhere. I own 2. In my development there are at least 7 of them. I know only 1 neighbor with the 3rd gen. But I literally made 1 neighbor pick Mazda6 over Accord. Now he thank me every time we see each other

  • avatar
    buffaloboxster

    more power it needs more power it NEEDS more POWER IT NEEDS MORE POWER :)

    Every Mazda I’ve driven in the last ten years feels short on power. If you are positioning your brand to compete against entry luxury brands you can’t do it with wheezy engines. I recently tested a CX-9 with a whopping 225 hp and no uprated engines available at any trim, Compare that to the VW Atlas which starts at 235 and goes up to 276, 280hp in the Honda Pilot, 272hp for the Acura RDX, 290 in the MDX, 290 in the Lexus RX.

    The 3 brings 186hp to the table, vs. the Golf GTI’s 228, 205 in the Civic si.

    The cars look great, the interiors are fabulous, and then you get behind the wheel and they just feel weak. It’s knife to a gunfight territory.

  • avatar
    nlinesk8s

    I’ve thought about this article more than any other in the past year. I own a 2017 3GT, and have had zero issues with it.

    Having said that, I feel for Mazda. It takes years to develop a new car, and when they finally got it ready, their target buyer (young person just out of college, or getting their first real job) can no longer afford a new car. The people who like styling, can afford only limited performance, and don’t care much about the back seat, can’t afford your car any more.

    So what do you do? You try to appeal to the group that has money (older people) with “premium” offerings. Unfortunately, that group has moved on en masse to CUV’s, and excepting a few enthusiast types, aren’t coming back. So putting the standard on only the top tier option group, while a dick-ish move, probably isn’t a bad one business-wise.

    Two things a manufacturer of any product needs to keep in mind: 1) who is your target market, and 2) why do they buy your product? With Subaru or Jeep, it’s the whole outdoors/capability thing.

    Mazda had Zoom-zoom at one time, but they seem to have let that lapse. Allowing the accountants talk you into a beam suspension, even if 99% of the owners never come close to the limits of a well-designed beam suspension, is foolish; see #2 above.

    So what could Mazda do to bring people back? this may seem trite, but there’s one thing that occurred to me: Give me some freakin’ color choices! I’ve gotten so tired of silver, black, white, maroon. If I could have a 3GT in British Racing Green, with a tan leather interior, I’d be there. Go to a business model where they have a few cars in the lot, and you order what you want. The only thing the current business model, where the dealer is the real customer, only gives you appliances. I’d like to be excited about a car again.

Read all comments

Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • Hummer: Why don’t you do one with the suppliers GM uses now and used in the past. Here’s one to start you off that’s...
  • randyinrocklin: A newbie here, but have enjoyed your articles and the banter that goes on here. Good luck in your new...
  • Scoutdude: The US retail version of the Crown Vic only lasted until 2007 From then on it was only Police, Taxi, and...
  • Peter Gazis: thornmark I’m old enough to remember 5 years ago. When Honda was selling 380,000 Accords a year. Last...
  • Peter Gazis: Toolguy Change happens, GM’s 1980 marketshare of 50% was unsustainable. Especially with imports from low...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Timothy Cain
  • Matthew Guy
  • Ronnie Schreiber
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Chris Tonn
  • Corey Lewis
  • Mark Baruth