It's a good time to be taking the reins at Mazda as the company lays tracks for electrification and sharpens its focus on its luxury aspirations, according to Tom Donnelly, the new CEO of Mazda North American Operations.
Donnelly, 57, will have primary oversight of the U.S. market. Exiting CEO Jeff Guyton, 56, who is relocating to Japan to be Mazda Motor Corp.'s chief financial officer and a member of the board, will continue to support North America operations.
"When I think about moving into this role now, it's timely," Donnelly, whose post becomes effective April 1, told Automotive News. "Looking at what Mazda has accomplished the last few years under Jeff's leadership going back to 2019 and 2020, it's a good time to be associated with the brand."
The handover also comes alongside a global shuffle, with Masahiro Moro, 62, taking over as Mazda Motor Corp. CEO in place of Akira Marumoto, 65, who served in the position since 2018.
Donnelly steps up from his current position as senior vice president of retail operations. His understanding of North America's critical role in Mazda's global playbook will enable him to elevate dealer throughput in the franchise and enhance customer experience.
"My real near-term priority is recognizing and delivering on the potential of the investments that have been made in the network, in the product and with this brand," Donnelly said.
First on the to-do list: launching two new crossovers that are vital to the brand's move upmarket — the CX-90 and CX-70 — designed specifically for U.S. consumers.
The three-row CX-90 goes on sale next month and offers a larger, more stylish alternative to the current CX-9, which is being phased out. The CX-70 five-seater follows later this year. Both crossovers will offer a gasoline and plug-in hybrid powertrain option.
"The CX-90 is the most premium vehicle we have ever introduced to the U.S. market," Donnelly said, noting that initial reception by dealers and media has been "universally positive."
"The exterior design, the technology in the vehicle, the powertrains that come with CX-90 really represent a [new] territory for Mazda and a significant enhancement from the way the brand has been recognized previously," he said.
Donnelly expects that CX-90 will log sales in the 90,000 range, eventually equal to "three to potentially four times the volume increase from the outgoing model." In 2022, Mazda sales of CX-9 topped 34,500, according to the Automotive News Research & Data Center.