Speaking to CarAdvice at last week’s Los Angeles auto show, the man in charge of Mazda Australia, Martin Benders, confirmed the Mazda 3 remains the best selling car in Australia among private buyers, despite the Toyota Corolla doing more volume overall.
“If you take [Corolla] rentals out of the equation, we are number one in the segment with 20 per cent share,” Benders said.
According to Benders, Toyota has managed more than 6000 Corolla sales to car rental companies so far this year, a practice that Mazda actively shuns for the sake of resale value and brand image.
“Some people actively chase it [rental sales] as a marketing exercise to put cars on the road, but it's not something we do, it's not something we chase at all.”
Mazda Australia’s stranglehold on the best selling car among private buyers remains in place, with its CX-5 also taking the title of the best selling SUV in the country.
But despite a customer-focused opposition to selling to rental companies, the modern day fleets and novated leases will have more appeal once the locally manufactured vehicles become extinct.
Benders believes the likes of the Mazda 6, which consistently trails the locally made Toyota Camry in the medium car segment, will benefit from an openness to fleet buyers.
“Traditionally we have not done fleet, but fleet as a concept has changed quite a bit in the market place, a lot more employees have been moved off fleet to novated leasing, the people who have naturally followed that are the fleet players, now we even have the premiums playing there with corporate type programs.
"So I think we’ve got to get in there, because people buying in the medium segment are those types of people. People buying maybe [Holden] Commodores and [Ford] Falcons or high-end [Toyota] Aurions are those sorts of people and as those cars go, they are going to be looking at something that is affordable with the right style, but you also have to go in there with the right sort of packages, like fully maintained lease packages.”
Mazda has employed a new fleet program manager to first handle its BT50 program before looking at the likes of Mazda 6 for fleet buyers.
The opportunity for Mazda might even come from offering a better value for money proposition than the European premium brands that continue to grow in the fleet segment.
“Our dealers don’t want to do fleet for the same reason as we don’t do rental, if you do much of that it affects resale value, [but] we are not going to be greedy there. But if I look at the medium segment, the normal private buyers are exiting and going into SUVs or downsizing into small cars, but those corporates are still buying that size car, and you get [Mercedes-Benz] C-Class and [Audi] A4 and [BMW] 3 Series playing in there, I think if you look pound for pound we offer a lot more for the price than those guys do.”
As well as fleets, Mazda Australia is also keen to tackle buyers in rural areas that have for long relied on the likes of the Ford Falcon wagon and Holden Commodore Sportwagon.
“As I drive around the country areas, I still see a lot of Falcon and Commodore wagons out there and they are not going to be available anymore and we have a diesel Mazda 6 wagon which is really a pleasure to drive out there with similar drive characteristics with great torque, so I still suspect that we have to get those guys who buy Ford and Holden traditionally and give them more options.”
Mazda Australia remains on course to take third spot in the sales tally by the end of 2014, with Holden around 5000 units in front and Hyundai behind in fourth place with a similar gap.