Masahiro Moro laid out a likely agenda for Mazda in North America in an interview at the Frankfurt auto show: Build customer loyalty and profits by increasing crossover sales. Moro, 55, will take the reins on Friday, Jan. 1, after the retirement of longtime North America CEO Jim O'Sullivan, 62, the company said last week. Moro, then Mazda's top global sales and marketing executive, spoke to Automotive News in September in Frankfurt.
At that time, he said that increased crossover sales can help Mazda transition away from heavy reliance on the Mazda3 compact. Crossover buyers tend to be more free-spending than compact car buyers, he said.
"In light of this, I wish that more than 50 percent of our total [U.S.] sales in two or three years be crossovers," said Moro, managing executive officer of global sales coordination.
Through November, Mazda sold 121,622 of its three crossovers, the CX-3, CX-5 and CX-9, in the U.S. That represents 42 percent of total U.S. sales of 289,889 through the first 11 months of this year.
Hitting that 50 percent target figures to get easier next year. Mazda launched the CX-3 in the summer and a replacement for the CX-9 is due next year.
Moro said Mazda needs to move away from its heavy reliance on the Mazda3. Although popular, Mazda3 margins were tight, he said.
"In the past, we have had a business model with too much reliance on Mazda3 series," Moro said. For example, in 2010, the Mazda3 accounted for 46 percent of Mazda's U.S. sales. "With that business model, it is very difficult to make good money," he said.
Those customers also tended to leave Mazda for other makes, making customer retention "a big problem." Customer loyalty in the U.S. has been at "industry bottom levels," he added.
"Loyalty is very low historically," he said. "With the new-generation product, our focus is how we can treat customers better and keep them loyal."
Crossover buyers, in particular, are more likely to buy another Mazda, often even the same model, Moro said, and they appreciate higher trim levels. He said the CX-5 Grand Touring model, with a $29,100 base price including shipping, accounts for nearly half of CX-5 sales.
That makes crossovers the key to better profitability, in Moro's view: "Our opportunity here is to recapture those customers or gain new customers through the crossover vehicles."