Mazda has quietly risen to the top of the residual-value heap among mainstream brands, edging out Subaru and Honda.
Automotive Lease Guide projects that 2010 Mazda cars and trucks will retain an average of 54.1 percent of their sticker price after 36 months, up 10 percentage points from the 2005 projection.
Subaru's residual projection is 54.0 percent after 36 months, up 7.8 percentage points over 2005; Honda's is 53.7 percent, up 2.3 points in the same period.
Niche brand Mini, which sells only subcompact cars, is projected to have a residual value of 60.8 percent after 36 months, the highest of any brand. Mini's projection is 1.5 percentage points above its 2005 projection.
Matt Traylen, chief economist at Automotive Lease Guide, credits the new 2010 Mazda3 and 2010 Mazda6, which was redesigned for 2009, with elevating the company's residual projections.
The Mazda3 small car has an average residual of about 59 percent at the end of 36 months and the Mazda6 mid-sized sedan about 55 percent.
Eric Johnston, vice president of sales and field operations at Mazda North American Operations, says the key to strong residual values is creating good-looking, high-quality vehicles and then resisting pressure to oversupply the market.
Mazda also shuns customer cash incentives and plans to sell no more than 6 percent of its vehicles to fleets this year.
"The used market tends to follow" the new-vehicle market, Johnston says. "A car that's not desirable new won't be desirable used, either. When people want your cars, they are willing to pay more for them."