Mazda exports to Europe have been ramped up and in May were 73.3% ahead of last year, while exports to the UK were 53.2% ahead of the same month in 2003.
Global demand for Mazda’s products is such that the company has managed to squeeze an extra 5.2% out of its production plants in Japan. Production of all Mazda’s models was 308,239 in the first five months of the year.
Mazda UK sales director Rob Lindley believes the boost in production will help them achieve 10,300 sales of the popular Mazda3 this year.
The car went on sale at the end of January and soaring sales in March – more than 2,000 and well ahead of the target of 1,600 - coupled with big demand across Europe meant that Mazda UK ran out of stock of certain key derivatives.
The 1.6TS model in particular sold in much bigger numbers than anticipated, and with a four-month shipping time from Japan, it is not always possible to get the mix of models completely right at launch.
“People are happy to wait four or five months for an RX-8 because it is so unique, but when they are looking at models like a Mazda3 1.6, there is a lot of choice out there and you really need the cars on the ground to meet demand,” said Lindley.
Now with 3,000 cars on their way from Japan ready for the expected September "54" plate change rush, Mazda’s dealers can give their customers what they want, he said.
The Mazda3 is built at the same factory in Japan as the Mazda6. “Now we have this extra production and the arrival of the diesel model, we are well on target to reach our objective for Mazda3 this year of 10,300 sales,” said Lindley.
Lindley is also looking for more UK dealers.
“Two years ago we said we needed 156 dealers as we headed towards an objective 50,000 sales a year by 2006. We are running two years ahead of our business plan and will get very close to 50,000 this year, so we are now looking at a total of around 175 sales points to take us through to 2007 by which time we expect to be selling over 60,000."
Areas that he is looking at include the Medway Towns, Lewisham, Camberley, Epsom and Uxbridge in the South East; Macclesfield, Workington, and North Manchester and the North West and Tamworth, Barnsley and Scunthorpe in the Midlands and towards the North.
Existing dealers have been asked if they would be interested in expanding to take on new territories, and there is a lot of enthusiasm, said Lindley.
"As well as the sales points we are also looking for between 20 and 30 authorised repairer locations.
“As an example, a customer in Barnstaple will probably be prepared to go and buy their new car in Exeter, but we can’t really expect them to drive back to Exeter each time they need a routine service or repair,” said Lindley.
Meanwhile, Mazda UK is broadening its horizons to the Mediterranean islands of Cyprus and Malta.
Both are right–hand drive markets and are now also members of the EU.
It’s not going to be big business just yet. “Last year the dealer on Malta sold just two Mazdas, but they are up to 40 sales already this year and could reach 100 for the full year,” said Lindley.
The dealer, Gasan Industries, also sells Ford, Volvo and Jaguar cars.
“We have exactly the same dealer agreement with Joe Gasan as we have with any of our UK dealers,” said Lindley.
Cyprus will come on board in October. There is already a strong grey market on the island for imports direct from Japan. “Volumes on Cyprus will be bigger and we will be able to provide them more choice and accessibility to product,” said Lindley.
The Mediterranean islands are not the only area of expansion for Mazda UK. With sales forecast to top 48,800 this year – up more than 10,000 on last year –