Mazda dealers saw a tough year in 2019 as sales fell more deeply than the market overall and the new-generation Mazda3 — built on a fresh platform designed to showcase its move upmarket — failed to take off following its launch, partly because of premium pricing on the base trim. But 2020 is looking brighter.
"The brand and the dealer body had probably lost the first six months of the year, but I think we gained a lot of momentum in the last six months of the year, especially in the last 90 days," said Jim McDonald, chairman of the Mazda National Dealer Advisory Council and general manager of McDonald Automotive Group in Colorado.
"I think the council and a lot of dealers around the country, a lot of us feel much more positive about the direction we've been going in the last six months and the momentum we're carrying into 2020," he told Automotive News. "I think we're all expecting a [sales] increase. I'm not sure if it's going to be a huge increase, but I think that there will be an increase."
Mazda sales were down 7.2 percent last year, but they had been down 10 percent through October before moving solidly in to the black in November and December.
One big reason for optimism in 2020 is the arrival of the CX-30 crossover, which shares a platform with the Mazda3 sedan and hatchback, but in a consumer-friendly body style. It's also priced more aggressively on the base model and has premium features such as class-leading horsepower and elegant styling without the sticker shock. Mazda got the dealer council to sign off on the pricing.
"It took some time for us to get the Mazda3 going, and having the CX-30 now, we're going to have better volume than we did last year," said McDonald. Likewise, Mazda showed more flexibility with incentives in the latter part of the year to stimulate sales, responding to dealer requests for additional support.
The other big piece of the puzzle is the facility upgrades to the Retail Evolution design scheme, which Mazda says has tangible benefits in terms of volume and profitability. Mazda says about 110 dealers have completed the program so far, and McDonald said about eight stores a month on average will do so in 2020.
"There's a lot of dealers out there — like us — who feel like this is worth the investment. We're getting better retention and better loyalty. We're able to hire better employees. And all that turns into better new-car sales, more pre-owned, CPOs, better fixed operations and better CSI," the dealer council chair said.