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Mazda targets 11% U.S. sales bump in 2015

Dealer incentive program to be retooled

Mazda hopes to reward dealers who operate standalone Mazda dealerships rather than twinning it with another brand. Photo credit: DAVID PHILLIPS

SAN FRANCISCO -- Mazda expects an 11 percent jump in U.S. sales this year, aided by the launch of the new CX-3 small crossover and redesigned MX-5 Miata roadster, Mazda executives told dealers Friday at the 2015 NADA convention here.

The company is also embarking on an overhaul of its dealer incentive program that will take effect July 1, said Dale Walker, owner of Walker’s Renton Mazda in Renton, Wash., and the new chairman of Mazda’s national dealer council.

Exact details of the new incentive plan not yet been decided, Walker said, but the company and dealers have certain changes in mind, such as rewarding dealers who operate standalone Mazda dealerships rather than twinning it with another brand.

Mazda conveyed that it intends to stay the course under U.S. chief Jim O’Sullivan, the president of Mazda North American operations since 2003. Mazda markets its vehicles as a more premium alternative to its Japanese and Korean rivals; its ongoing challenge is explaining why customers should be willing to take the step up.

Mazda’s U.S. sales rose 8 percent in 2014 to 305,801.

Michelle Primm, managing partner of Cascade Auto Group in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, said executives told dealers they intend to stick with the 2-year-old “Game Changers” campaign, which touts Mazda’s technical prowess by comparing Mazda to innovative people of the past.

“If it ain’t broke,” Primm said, “don’t fix it.”

You can reach Gabe Nelson at gnelson@crain.com

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