Creating traditional sedans, wagons and hatchbacks – rather than focusing exclusively on SUVs – is an essential requirement when it comes to engineering dynamically capable vehicles, according to Mazda.
So far this year, the small car segment – which the Mazda 3 competes in – has declined by seven percent, while the medium car segment (Mazda 6) is also weakening.
In contrast, the small (CX-3), medium (CX-5) and large (CX-9) SUV segments are up 26.1, 12.8 and 8.2 percent respectively. No surprise, Australia’s shift towards SUVs is a reflection of global car buying trends.
Speaking at the Tokyo motor show this week, Mazda’s global CEO Masamichi Kogai dismissed the notion that the carmaker would shift its focus to more SUVs and away from core models such as the Mazda 3 and 6, which compete in shrinking global segments.
“Without perfecting the sedan vehicles… if we are just rushing to make SUVs, we cannot make great driving cars.” Kogai said.
The Mazda 3 remains the most popular model for the Japanese brand in Australia, however its sales are down more than 10 percent this year (Mazda 6 down 11 percent), while the brand’s SUV range is growing.
“I believe that SUV segment will continue to grow as well but at the same time we need to nurture our sedans in the B, C and D segments. By having the sedan we can really improve and perfect the driving dynamic performance so we can maximise the performance there,” Kogai said.
Mazda’s SUVs are based on the same platform as their sedan counterparts, which may suggest that if their sedan cars were not produced first with emphasis on ‘fun to drive’, the SUV versions would suffer dynamically.
The man in charge of Oceania at Mazda, Yuji Nakamine, says demand for non-SUV models is still strong enough in some markets to justify global production of the vehicles, but the relentless shift towards SUVs could perhaps threaten some underperforming models.
“We have to look at the Mazda business globally.” Nakamine said.
“In the US, Mazda 6 is still strong. [The] trend is maybe shifting to SUV and crossovers but my point is we have to offer a very good product line-up and sedans for sure, but maybe the Mazda 6’s segment is shrinking, maybe we will have great opportunity for CX-5 and CX-9.”
In contrast to his previous comments, however, Kogai added: “[Maybe] the Koeru [concept] could be a replacement for Mazda6 sedan?”