With its decision to move to a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty, Mazda has narrowed the pool of 'mainstream' manufacturers offering three years of coverage to just four: Nissan, Subaru, Toyota and Volkswagen.
We've made clear the CarAdvice position on warranty in the past, but here's a quick recap from Alborz's opinion piece on the issue:
It’s time we start asking car companies to up their written warranties. There is simply no good reason a Kia Sportage should have a seven-year warranty while a Toyota RAV4 is offered with only three.
The industry tide has turned toward longer coverage in a big way over the past 12 to 18 months. Honda moved to five years in July 2017, while Peugeot and Citroen followed suit in February this year. Ford announced its new coverage period in May, while Holden went to a permanent five-year warranty at the start of July.
Kia has offered a seven-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty since October 2014, but it's talking about pushing that to 10 years if the wider industry starts to nip at its unique selling point.
The logic behind offering a longer, more comprehensive warranty is simple: it communicates confidence in the product, and helps put buyers at ease – both for service at the dealer, and the potential added value at resale time.
The oft-discussed Australian Consumer Law (ACL) also has your back regardless of warranty, but there's a not-insignificant difference between walking into your dealership wielding words like "reasonable time" when something goes wrong, and strutting in with two years of clearly-defined coverage behind you.
Speaking with CarAdvice, Bessie Hassan, finder.com.au (↗) money expert, said maintenance matters were top of the list for new-car buyers, and highlighted the confidence that accompanies a longer coverage period.
"Factors such as warranty and inclusive roadside assistance are definitely important to car buyers, and much more so than things like fuel economy, security, technology, the exterior colour of the car, accessories and cruise control," Hassan said, referencing a recent finder survey.
"I do think a longer warranty is more attractive, and it also builds a brand's trust. If someone has a positive experience with that brand that does have the long warranty, when it comes time for them to upgrade their car, guess who they're probably going to turn to first."
Not everyone is getting on board the longer warranty bandwagon – in fact, the biggest carmaker in Australia, Toyota, has stuck staunchly behind its three-year warranty period.
We asked the four remaining 'mainstream' manufacturers whether the Mazda move left them at risk of being left behind in the eyes of consumers. Here's what they had to say.
Speaking with CarAdvice yesterday, Volkswagen directed us to the following quote from its managing director, Michael Bartsch:
"We see Volkswagen customers responding to our drive-away pricing and finance offers. We do not detect the same interest in five year warranty, though we are monitoring its increased prevalence.We work closely with dealers to resolve any issue that customers might encounter after the expiration of their warranty.”
That's a slightly softer touch than he applied to topic on a previous occasion. Speaking with CarAdvice last year, the outspoken executive likened long warranty periods to a drug, and suggested they're more of a "fast and loud" act of showmanship. That position has subsequently softened, with Bartsch this week telling Mike Costello:
"I think the market is pretty well informed at the moment that warranties are all pretty passé, because there's something called Australian Consumer Law, and that already gives customers a five year warranty.“So I think whilst it looks nice on paper, nothing is for nothing, and we have it anyway without having it, so we are focusing at the moment where customers are putting their priorities when they're making purchasing decisions.”
Nissan hasn't been quite as brash in its messaging around the warranty issue, but took a similar line to Volkswagen, arguing it's constantly keeping an eye on what's best for consumers. The company issued the following statement:
“We are continually monitoring the Australian market to ensure we understand and deliver on the needs of our existing and prospective customers.This review process does include warranty, along with a variety of other aspects related to buying and owning a vehicle.”
Toyota has also said there are no plans to move away from a three-year coverage period. Speaking with CarAdvice in March, sales and marketing boss Sean Hanley said the company will keep monitoring the situation, but it has "no plans to change the warranty that we have today" based on other brands doing the same.
At the same time, he pointed to Toyota's reputation for reliability and quality, and argued the three-year, 100,000km warranty the brand offers right now isn't holding it back.
A Toyota spokesperson issued the following statement yesterday, essentially reiterating the same line:
At this stage, Toyota Australia has no plans to extend its warranty for new vehicles. However, we are looking at additional guest-centric programs designed to extend the new Toyota feeling and will provide more information in due course.
Subaru has previously said it's open to a longer warranty, given how important Australia is to its global sales tally. Speaking with CarAdvice earlier this year, Colin Christie, local Subaru boss, said the idea of a longer warranty is "always under consideration, it has been under consideration for a while".
The company issued the following statement this week:
Warranty is something that we continue to evaluate and, as you may have seen, we do run occasional five-year promotional periods, but at this stage there’s no immediate plan to change from the current three-year/unlimited kilometre.
Where does warranty rank on your priority list when buying a new car?
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