It has been a while since Mazda dealers asked the factory for more products. But the hot-selling new Tribute sport-utility has created momentum for the franchise that dealers want to see expanded to other product lines.
This spring Mazda will deliver the Protege MP3 edition and the Protege5 sport wagon. But redesigns of the aging 626, Millenia and B-series pickup are a couple of years away, as is the RX-8 sports car.
"When the new products arrive, that will solve our long-term woes. But until then we have to be aggressive," Sansone said. "They want to push the brand at the national level, but they have to spend the dollars at the local and regional level to make it go."
Charlie Hughes, in his first major meeting since becoming Mazda North American Operations president in October, understands the danger of placing new marketing images on old products.
"Our No. 1 issue is creating demand, getting on more shopping lists. There has been a feeling among consumers that Mazda has been quiet for a while," Hughes said.
Hughes predicts Mazda will show modest sales growth in 2001, thanks to a full year of Tribute sales as well as the arrival of the new Protege lines.
Hughes also expressed concern for profitability at the dealer level, especially for single-line dealers.
Said Hughes: "We improved last year with Tribute, but it's never where you want it to be."