Mazda's U.S. Sales Situation Finally Starts Coming Together, in the Middle of a Pandemic? And Because of the Miata?

Timothy Cain
by Timothy Cain
mazdas u s sales situation finally starts coming together in the middle of a

Month after month, as the Mazda product lineup improves and as plaudits pour in, we chronicle the company’s tragic dearth of U.S. sales success. The automaker’s goals for performance in the American marketplace are modest: a good 2 percent market share, for example. Yet generating meaningful demand for deserving products – the second-generation CX-9 and the new-for-2019 Mazda 3, as examples – has proven remarkably challenging.

At least it was remarkably challenging, until a pandemic battered and bruised the U.S. auto market beyond all recognition. U.S. auto sales in the first quarter of 2020 tumbled by more than 12 percent, yet Mazda sales during the same period were off by just 4 percent. Mazda market share ticked up to 1.9 percent in Q1.

But it was Mazda’s May 2020 performance, in which the brand’s sales in the United States dropped by fewer than 300 units, that Mazda appeared downright hopeful. You won’t be surprised to learn the market fared much, much worse.

There’s a problem with May reporting, just as there was with April reporting, just as there will be with sales reports issued for July, August, October, and November. Most automakers now refrain from monthly reports, opting instead to issue model-specific U.S. sales stats only on a quarterly basis.

Mazda is joined only by nine other brands: Acura, Genesis, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Lexus, Subaru, Toyota, and Volvo. Those nine brands collectively reported a 21-percent drop, 21 times worse than Mazda’s almost imperceptible decline. After an estimated 39-percent decline for the overall industry in March and a 50-percent nosedive in April, May sales likely dipped by around 30 percent based on estimates for non-reporting brands.

That would mean Mazda’s market share grew from 1.6 percent in May 2019 to 2.2 percent in May 2020.

How?

As predicted, the first ever, confusingly named, right-sized Mazda CX-30 is central to the brand’s mid-COVID improvements. Yet the addition of the CX-30’s 3,583 additional sales was by no means the only bonus for Mazda.

Year-over-year, MX-5 Miata sales jumped 31 percent. With 1,102 sales, it was the first four-digit sales month for Mazda’s droptop since last July and only the fifth such 1K+ month in the last three years. Mazda averaged fewer than 700 monthly Miata sales in 2019 and hasn’t averaged more than 1,000 per month since 2007.

Sales of Mazda’s flagship, the three-row CX-9, also shot up in May. 2,421 CX-9s were sold, a 21-percent YOY improvement. Through the first five months of the year, CX-9 sales are up 6 percent. That puts the second-gen CX-9, launched in 2016, on track for its best year yet.

Deserving of the bulk of credit, however, is the CX-30, a competitor for the Subaru Crosstrek, Nissan Rogue Sport, Kia Seltos, and numerous others, including vehicles in Mazda’s lineup. Consider the fact that while Mazda added 3,583 CX-30 sales in May, sales of the Mazda 3 (with which it shares a platform), CX-3 (which it’s destined to replace), and CX-5 (which it undercuts in price) dropped by a total of 3,862 units.

It would be too simplistic to suggest that every sale of a CX-30 cost Mazda the sale of a 3, CX-3, or CX-5. But it certainly wouldn’t be too far-fetched to suggest that the CX-30 acted in cannibalistic fashion in various corners of the Mazda showroom. The CX-30 is certainly cementing its position as the CX-5’s prime understudy: CX-30 sales have outnumbered sales of the 3 (sedan and hatch inclusive) since March.

Through the end of May, Mazda sales in 2020 are down 11 percent, a loss of more than 12,000 units. Kia, Hyundai, Toyota, Subaru, and Honda fell 13 percent, 17 percent, 21 percent, 23 percent, and 25 percent, respectively, during the same five-month period. Mazda’s market share picture will become much clearer when all automakers report first-half auto sales in early July.

[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.

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  • Xpistns Xpistns on Jun 05, 2020

    There is a Mazda that embodies the feeling a previous MX-5/RX driver would enjoy for the family. It's better than any SUV at handling, has a third row seat, and is good on gas. It's the 5. The only problem I had was some understeer which I remedied with a fatter rear stabilizer. Unfortunately, vans are not de rigeur and fashion is loyal to no one. That's ok because, as I'm ripping around corners while hauling everything else in between, let all the flashy sports car people get pulled over by cops while I zip by unnoticed.

  • Johnster Johnster on Jun 06, 2020

    All things considered, there aren't very many Mazda dealers around and that sure doesn't help the sales situation. It seems to me that where there are Mazda dealers, the cars seem to sell fairly well. I see a fair number of Mazda 3s, CX-9s, CX-5s and CX-3s, and a few 6s and MX-5s where I currently live. I haven't seen a CX-30 yet.

  • Randy in rocklin The Japanese can be so smart and yet so dumb. I'm America-Japanese and they really can be dumb sometimes like their masking paranoia.
  • Bunkie The Flying Flea has a fascinating story and served, inadvertently, to broaden the understanding of aircraft design. The crash described in the article is only part of the tale.
  • Master Baiter "I like the Earth."The idea that modern combustion engines are incompatible with the ongoing survival of the Earth, or of humanity, is breathtakingly stupid. Climate alarmism is akin to a religion--one to which I do not subscribe.
  • Skippity Key takeaways.Toyota is run by competent businessmen.Art doesn’t like Toyota.
  • MaintenanceCosts Audi has been a full player in the German luxury club for 20 years. It started to get there with the first A4, which was a 500-foot home run, and then achieved full recognition with the spectacular D3 A8.
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