The likely changes are being piloted at a profitable family dealership in Austria, where Mazda has a 4.5% market share and is the most successful Japanese brand.
James Muir, MME president and CEO, says the retail plan is known within Mazda as ‘brand@retail’ and will be developed in collaboration with its dealers throughout the EU.
“We are working on a way to carry ‘zoom-zoom’ to our retail points, while taking account of changes we expect in dealerships over the next decade” says Muir.
“Mazda must find a way to present its products attractively in showrooms where other brands will be on display, with no dividing walls. We’re looking at all aspects of the touching-point with customers, including lighting and colours.”
Jeff Guyton, MME chief financial officer, says Mazda is not planning a costly change to dealerships because the fundamentals have been completed.”
Muir and Guyton were speaking at a press briefing for key European business publications ahead of the Frankfurt show. There was a preview of the Sassou concept, which later made a show debut in Frankfurt.
Since 2000, Mazda has been pushing through its ‘Millennium Plan” to recover European market share lost during the Nineties when rebadged Fords battered its reputation.
The manufacturer took control of distribution in the UK and other countries, though Muir says some of its independent distributors are more effective than the manufacturer could ever be. Muir says Mazda is now changing gear to a Momentum Plan designed to increase its sales around new products. The most important will be the production version of the Sassou – the Mazda2 replacement.
The new model is due to reach showrooms in late 2006/early 2007 and, with a projected annual 100,000 sales in Europe, is central to Mazda’s growth.
At the preview, Muir said Mazda had not yet decided where it would assemble its new B-sector challenger. Talks were planned with Mazda directors visiting Frankfurt for the show, where a decision might be made.
Muir says the decision was not being delayed by talks with another group, as Mazda was not planning any collaboration.
He acknowledges that how Mazda would achieve success without something equivalent to the Toyota/PSA Aygo/107/C1 partnership is “a good question”. According to Guyton, discussions with Ford will be necessary before a plant can be chosen.
Muir says Mazda is determined not to “chase volume” with the Mazda2 replacement, which would have stylishness at the core of its appeal. “Our aim is to increase volume while improving profitability for our retailers and ourselves,” he says.