CHICAGO — Mazda is a small child up against a professional sumo wrestler in terms of its place in the global automotive industry.
At least that's how Mazda's North American chief, Masahiro Moro, characterized the automaker's 2 percent market share to reporters shortly after a National Dealer Advisory Council meeting here this month.
Moro, a Mazda lifer who started leading domestic operations in January 2016, is in the beginning stages of a 10-year or more "Mazda Premium" strategy aimed at turning the company's roughly 2 percent U.S. market share into a "good" 2 percent.
Moro, 56, sat down with Staff Reporter Michael Wayland to discuss the plan as well as other issues facing Mazda and the auto industry.
On Mazda's market share and what a "good" 2 percent means:
"A good 2 percent means our dealer network becomes profitable and becomes sustainable, with brand in mind and customer experience in mind. That is the foundation for us to reach the first gate.
"Until we reach that high-quality business operation, it is not my intention to push volume by diminishing or putting a low priority on improving the business foundation.
"That's why I'm saying let's go to a 'good' 2 percent first. That becomes your foundation for each dealer to accelerate growth because in order to accelerate your growth, you have to have good loyalty and consistent conquest. If your loyalty is lower, too much conquest, your business is going to never work.
"Our ultimate goal is to increase brand loyalty. We want to be the highest-brand-loyalty brand, which is important for small companies or small brands in terms of scale to keep those strong bonds for life.
"In order to do that, I think, a brand experience, a customer experience throughout all touch points is absolutely critical."
On the recent hiring of Detroit ad veteran Dino Bernacchi as chief marketing officer for U.S. operations:
"It's important to have someone overarching our strategy to manage the entire customer experience. Our CMO is responsible to manage a customer's experience consistently through all touch points.
"Marketing sometimes means the brand communication. That's a very narrow definition. My definition of marketing is strategy ... so each operation has a clear view, consistent understanding about what we provide to customers."