Mazda is expecting to double sales of its new 3 lower-medium model to fleets thanks to a new family of lower emission engines.
On sale next month, the four-door saloon and five-door hatchback models boast fuel economy improved by up to 16% and CO2 emissions reduced by up to 19%.
Crucially, a new 1.6-litre diesel model will be offered which emits 119g/km, dropping it into the lowest benefit-in-kind tax band for diesels.
And Mazda UK managing director Jeremy Thomson also believes that the halo effect from the larger 6 upper-medium model will also help, especially as it has just been named large family car of the year at the Fleet News Awards.
He said: “The 6 has become a fleet favourite and much of that model’s talents are flowing down to the 3.
“The 6 has a 5-6% segment share, and the new 3 has the capacity to do that.
“In a field of bland options, the 3 has real fleet credibility thanks to the improved economy and emissions. The price guides are seeing the car next week and I’m confident of strong residuals.”
Thomson expects to sell 12,000 units in a full year – around 1,000 ahead of the old 3.
Fleets will account for up to 40% of sales in the new version, compared to a share of between 10 and 20% before.
However, Thomson says this growth will be through attracting user-choosers into the brand, and not through doing unsustainable business.
He added: “We’re not chasing market share for share’s sake – we can’t afford to do that.
"We need profitable business so we will not being selling to direct brokers or daily rental companies, and we will also restrict our Motability sales too.”
Mazda is planning to take the new 3 to key fleets in the coming months through its corporate demonstrator programme so people can test the car – a key point for Thomson who wants the magic from the 6 to rub off on the 3.
He said: “People will not compromise on choice and that is good news for us as we are not a typical player so can offer people something different to the mass-market cars.”
With the roll-out of the 3, and the revised 6 range on sale, Thomson expects Mazda to retain its 2.3% market share this year after a record 2008 in the UK.
Last year Mazda sold 50,000 models, but this is expected to fall to 42,000 units in 2009.