Product-hungry Mazda dealers eagerly await the launch of the MPV minivan - but in August?
After hearing dealers express concern about the van's end-of-summer launch, Mazda officials agreed to rethink the schedule. Dealers at the make meeting at the National Automobile Dealers Association convention said they were concerned the launch might get lost in the blizzard of inventory-clearance advertising that traditionally blankets August. The company says it will devise a new schedule and consider ideas about an untraditional launch for the product.
The give-and-take seemed to capture a new factory-dealer working relationship at Mazda. Despite lagging sales, a shortage of new products and the stepped-up control of Mazda by Ford Motor Co., Mazda retailers gave the new factory management a vote of confidence. Remarks from Mazda North American Operations President Richard Beattie and others earned repeated applause from a standing-room-only crowd.
'The dealers feel pretty strongly that we have a leader in Richard Beattie,' said Rodd Parr, a dealer council member and owner of Parr Mazda in Bremerton, Wash., after the meeting. 'When a guy asks you to wait a half a year for new products, you've got to believe in him. We've had good managers in the past. What we have now is a leader.'
Parr said Beattie and his management team have adopted a policy of giving dealers more of what they request.
After the meeting, Beattie said dealers are most concerned with raising sales volumes. He said Mazda sales had risen more than 8 percent last year and said the fall introduction of the Protege had boosted that model about 10 percent for the year.
Beattie told dealers the successful Protege launch was representative of what Mazda's new ad agency, W.B. Doner and Co., would do as new products roll out.
'The bottom line is that we need some new product,' said Beattie, who came to Mazda from Ford Motor Co. He would not discuss the plan for a shared Ford and Mazda small sport-utility expected in 2001.
'The message here today was that this is the hiatus before the new product arrives. We're asking our retailers to be patient and they are going along with us.'