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Why the CX-7's days are numbered in the U.S.

Ryan Beene is a Los Angeles-based reporter for Automotive News.

LOS ANGELES -- Pretty soon, the only Mazda CX-7 you'll be able to buy will be a used one.

Mazda confirmed to journalists at a recent press event that the CX-7 crossover is being discontinued for the U.S. market. It'll still be sold elsewhere. CX-7 sales through February were averaging about 2,600 units per month. Mazda said about 6,100 units of combined inventory and port stock were available at the end of last month, but no more dealer deliveries were scheduled. At this rate, dealers should run out of the CX-7 sometime in May.

Why did Mazda pull the plug?

The crossover didn't have a business case to support the cost required to pass the next set of U.S. emissions and safety certification hurdles, Robert Davis, Mazda's former product guru-turned U.S. operations boss, said in a recent interview.

Mazda wanted to make way for the new CX-5 and not crowd showrooms with too many crossovers. Despite less overall length, wheelbase and width than the CX-7, the CX-5 is bigger inside.

The CX-5 will compete more directly with the big players in the compact crossover segment like the Honda CR-V, Ford Escape and Toyota RAV4.

The CX-7 failed to live up to sales expectations set prior to its 2006 launch. Annual sales only surpassed the company's 40,000-unit target once, in 2007. Sales rebounded during the last two years, peaking at 35,641 last year.

Granted, the turmoil of 2008 and 2009 didn't help sales, but a few packaging issues also were blamed.

The CX-7 is a little bigger than the usual compact crossover and too small to compete with mid-sized crossovers. It also launched with a 2.3-liter turbocharged engine that required premium fuel as its sole powerplant, which dealers have said was a big reason consumers avoided the vehicle. A more basic 2.5-liter powerplant that ran on regular gas was added mid-cycle.

"CX-7 was positioned between where the CX-5 is now and where the CX-9 is, and the only other person in that range was really the Nissan Murano," Davis said.

"Between the size, along with the pricing and launching with a turbo engine, that put us at too many disadvantages to be successful."

Davis also said dealers expected the CX-5 to be smaller than it is. Before seeing the CX-5, dealers pushed back against the factory's plans to stop selling the CX-7 stateside, Davis said.

But things changed.

Said Davis: "After they saw the CX-5, they said don't muddy the waters with two of 'em."

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