Underperforming stores must go

Mazda U.S. dealer network faces shake-up

Underperforming stores must go

The Mazda3 is expected to help Mazda achieve its sales goal.
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TOKYO -- Mazda Motor Corp., targeting a one-third surge in U.S. sales over the next two years, plans a sharp rise in sales per outlet and will weed out those dealerships that underperform.

The small carmaker, which relies on exports to North America for nearly a third of its global sales, is channeling its sales and marketing energies into 35 metropolitan markets that it has identified as key to its growth.

Marumoto: Plan is "bearing fruit."

Akira Marumoto, executive vice president in charge of North America, said Mazda began explaining the new strategy to dealers in October. The plan calls for opening showrooms to replace outlets in poor locations or dealerships that aren't performing.

Marumoto said Mazda will be "aggressive" with the shuffle. "I believe we can achieve our goal," he said at last month's Tokyo Motor Show. "Our initiatives are bearing fruit."

Mazda declined to provide figures for expected dealer turnover or outlet swaps. Marumoto also declined to say how many dealerships he thinks Mazda needs to meet its sales goal.

Mazda is on track for a fourth-straight year of higher U.S. sales.

Masamichi Kogai, who took over as CEO in June, targets U.S. sales of 400,000 units in the fiscal year ending March 31, 2016. That's up a third from a forecast 300,000 in the fiscal year that will end March 31, 2014, and up 47 percent from 273,000 sold in the fiscal year to March 31, 2013.

The sales goal also would surpass Mazda's sales record of 379,843 set more than a quarter century ago, in the 1986 calendar year. In calendar 2012, Mazda sold 277,046 units in the United States. Through November, Mazda's sales rose 5 percent to 260,983.

The brand has 637 dealers in the United States. That number has held nearly steady from 640 in 2010, but it is down dramatically from 711 in 2005. In 2012, the brand sold 437 units per U.S. franchise, up from 393 in 2011.

Mazda is especially prioritizing Los Angeles and New York, Marumoto said. In the first half, he said, the brand's sales in Los Angeles rose 38 percent while those in New York jumped 29 percent.

Most of the additional 100,000 units needed to achieve the 400,000 goal will come from the newly redesigned Mazda3 small car and the CX-5 small crossover, Marumoto said.

Meanwhile, smaller-volume vehicles such as the MX-5 Miata sporty car and CX-9 crossover will deliver smaller incremental volume increases but a bigger boost to profits.

Those two cars will get redesigns within the next three years, Marumoto said. "Toward the fiscal year ending March 2016, we will have a new CX-9, and those are the models where we are prioritizing for profit improvement," he said. "The MX-5 Miata, because it's a sports car, they sell quite well in the first three years."

The Mazda6 sedan also should get a bump from the addition of a diesel drivetrain, Marumoto said.

In addition, he said, Mazda aims to extend sales gains from the CX-5, which debuted in the United States nearly two years ago, through midcycle updates.

You can reach Hans Greimel at hgreimel@crain.com. -- Follow Hans on Twitter

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