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More Insight Into Mazda’s Prospects

July 30, 2013 by Matt

2014 Mazda 3 Red

In a recent feature, Car and Driver provides some analysis of an issue that provoked some pondering a little over a year ago: Why, in spite of a stellar lineup of cars, does Mazda still struggle to find lasting success compared to its rivals?

In my post, I speculated:

[A] glance at Mazda’s output—the 3, 6, RX-8, MX-5, CX-7, CX-9 and Tribute, among others—reveals vehicles that are almost always a joy to drive, but in terms of mass-market appeal, are a little out-of-step with mainstream tastes. They’re not boring transportation appliances, and as much as we enthusiasts would consider that a selling point, the hard truth is that much of the buying public is looking for the anonymous beige box to tote them around, never breaking down and getting 30 mpg and playing their MP3s via Bluetooth.

And while I’ve no doubt that’s part of the problem, C&D shines light on some additional albatrosses around Mazda’s neck, among them a temporarily favorable yen-to-dollar exchange rate putting the automaker in a precarious position from a pricing standpoint, vehicles that are well-sized for the American market but not ideal from a global perspective and a separation from corporate partner Ford that eliminates economies of scale facilitated by platform engineering.

By my count, between them, the CX-5 and 6 have three C&D comparo wins and the CX-5 notched another victory in the latest issue of Motor Trend. That kind of success in such a short span of time is absolutely unheard of for automakers other than media darlings like BMW and Audi, and contributes to the feeling of mystification among car buffs. We ask ourselves: “If the German performance marques leverage critical success into sales figures, why can’t Mazda?” But as C&D points out, the equation for a downmarket (though no less dynamically excellent) automaker is a bit more…nuanced.

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Filed under: Car Industry, Mazda


  1. Aaron says:

    I read that same article and have thought along the same lines…I see quite a few of the Mazda 3s on the road – hopefully they will continue the upward trend. Though I’m a used car kinda guy, a few minutes worth of prime time television makes one think that selling practice vehicles is done via huge incentives and/or low or zero financing offers. Does Mazda play that game?

    • Matt says:

      I’m sure they do, to a degree, but their lack of volume compared to their competitors makes it more difficult to offer the same kinds of discounts… Economies of scale and all.

  2. Nic says:

    Despite their generally superior driving dynamics, the quality of materials used in making Mazdas seems to be sub-par in comparison to those used in Hondas and Toyotas. I often see 5-10 year old Mazdas parked or on the road with quite noticeable rust issues. The other Japanese marques of a similar vintage don’t seem to suffer from this problem as much. I have been inside both a circa 2005 Mazda3 and Mazda6 and found the quality of the plastics and the upholstery to be pretty poor as well. Mazda’s cheap build quality would certainly be a big factor as to why people (especially non-enthusiasts) gravitate more towards the other Japanese marques. Let’s be honest, driving enthusiasts are a dying breed. If Mazda wants to increase their marketshare, they are going to have to increase the quality of the materials they build their cars with. Making fun-to-drive cars simply is not enough. I do, however, think Mazda is doing a great job of setting themselves apart from the competition though superb design quality, by producing excellent chassis, and by offering their cars with manual transmissions. Unfortunately these are not features the majority of car buyers are interested in. The 2014 Mazda6 wagon, for example, looks phenomenal: It’s too bad we won’t be seeing it in North America…

    • Matt says:

      Good points. FWIW I test drove a Mazda 6 recently and can report that the interior is a home run, not just in design but in material quality as well, and car reviews consistently point out the same thing with the 6, the CX-5 and hopefully the new 3 too.

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