Mazda Australia says it is not overly concerned that fast-growing rival Hyundai has overtaken it and leapt into third place on the Australian sales charts with one month remaining in 2014.
The development for industry followers is an interesting one, given the result of the battle royale between the Japanese and Korean brands not only determines which finishes in third place on the sales charts overall, but also which takes the title as Australia’s top full-line vehicle importer.
What does this mean exactly? Top-two brands Toyota (184,486 sales this year) and Holden (98,340) still make two models each in Australia, whereas Mazda and Hyundai import everything they sell from Japan, Korea, Thailand or Europe (depending on model).
Also of consideration for Mazda is its strong presence in Australia by global standards. The carryover champion performs better here in a relative, per capita basis than anywhere else. Consider, it was the first full importer to manage 100K annual sales here.
As it stands, Hyundai has now registered 92,354 vehicles in 2014, up 3.5 per cent in a down market. Mazda has over the period delivered 91,973 units, down 2.8 per cent. The total market is down 2.2 per cent, meaning Hyundai is bucking the trend here.
That said, Mazda is second overall in private sales behind Toyota. Private sales generally carry bigger margins and are therefore more desirable than fleet deals.
Comparing the two brands is interesting. Hyundai offers more models, with 11 lines compared to Mazda’s seven. Hyundai also does more fleet deals than Mazda, which aside from its BT-50 is very private-buyer focused — for now.
Doing the heavy lifting for Hyundai is the i20, up 9.3 per cent and the incumbent top-seller in the light-car segment over the Mazda 2. Also strong is the ix35, which is down 3.6 per cent but remains the small SUV class champion (though the Mazda CX-3 is coming soon...), and the Santa Fe has almost doubled the Mazda CX-9.
The Veloster also dominates the entry sports car segment along with the Toyota 86.
“This is an outstanding result in a challenging market,” said John Elsworth, chief operating officer Hyundai Motor Company Australia. “We head into the final month of sales for the year in a strong position, focused and motivated as we chase a best-ever annual sales result for the brand.”
Mazda retorts with the Mazda 3, which easily outsells the (also hugely popular) Hyundai i30, while the Mazda 6 has more than doubled the i40. Likewise, the CX-5 dominates its medium SUV class.
In the commercial arena, the BT-50 ute has no Hyundai rival, giving Mazda about 12,000 incremental units. But Hyundai’s 4000-odd iLoad van sales chip this down somewhat.
The battle of the brands is interesting also in terms of their respective strategies. Hyundai may be pushing Genesis hard to move its image upmarket, but it’s still a company that pushes value as the key consideration further down its model range.
Mazda, while ostensibly a volume brand in terms of output, has made a concerted effort to push a little upmarket, which few could argue hasn’t been a stellar success.
Neither Mazda or Hyundai were particularly keen to weigh into the debate this week, with Hyundai insisting it didn’t want to comment as the issue was apparently not seen internally as a significant one, and Mazda likewise claiming to be unfazed in the result.
Speaking today, Mazda Australia marketing director Alastair Doak said the company was content with its result, and snuck in what could be perceived as a subtle dig at Hyundai.
"Volume is down a bit this year but we’re comfortable with the result and unlike some of our competitors this year's result is based on real demand from private buyers," he said.
Mazda should grow its volume next year too, with well updated versions of the Mazda 6 and CX-5 arriving in the first quarter, the all-new and incremental CX-3 arriving around April and the brand new and heavily publicised MX-5 arriving late in the year, along with an upgraded BT-50.
To facilitate this product rollout, the company is adding six new dealers in 2015, a large figure considering its very settled network.
Ultimately, one of these two titans will will the sales battle in 2014 — neither car-maker may acknowledge the battle, but we sure do — but the reality is, both are pretty impressive operations in terms of scale, and they have different missions.
We could even suggest that Holden may want to watch its back in 2015…