NEW ORLEANS -- Mazda dealers can expect more reliable supplies of the Mazda3 compact car this year thanks to additional production of the vehicle at a new plant in Mexico.
Dealers say Mazda3 inventories have been limited since the redesigned model was phased in last fall. U.S. sales of the Mazda3, the brand's perennial best-seller, declined 15 percent last year to 104,713 units, but dealers say the plant in Salamanca, Mexico, should help reverse that trend.
"There won't be a product shortage on the 3. We're going to be in good shape because of that Mexico inventory," said Tom Carey, a Mazda dealer in Urbandale, Iowa, and chairman of the brand's national dealer council.
Rob King, the departing chairman, who has a Mazda dealership in Winston-Salem, N.C., says the extra output should boost sales about 20 percent, which would be more than 125,000 units. He says Mazda expects to exceed 300,000 vehicle sales this year, which it has not done since 1994.
Mazda officials also reiterated their goal of boosting U.S. sales to more than 400,000 by 2016.
Part of Mazda's revamped product strategy has included reducing incentives on redesigned vehicles such as the Mazda6 mid-sized sedan and Mazda3 compact. Despite incentive pressure from competitors, Jim O'Sullivan, CEO of Mazda North American Operations, expects the brand's updated lineup to increase its market share.
"The value of the car is there to begin with," O'Sullivan said in an interview. "Just because there's some incentive activity doesn't necessarily mean we're going to be out of consideration."
On the facility front, Mazda has completed a feasibility study for new design standards that Robert Davis, senior vice president of U.S. operations, expects to be announced to dealers in about two months. Mazda executives say the program is needed to better match the more upscale look and feel of its vehicles.
"It's less about colors and more about the way that it all feels," he said.
Davis declined to disclose many details of the program, but said cost was a key priority. Some new technology additions will include tablet-based vehicle displays in showrooms and the use of tablets in the service area, he said.