LOS ANGELES – Buoyed by strong CUV sales and new car models,is targeting at least 300,000 sales in the U.S. in the fiscal year ending March 31, James J. O’Sullivan, president and CEO of Mazda North American Operations, tells WardsAuto.
Through November,sales reached 261,000, up from 250,000 a year earlier. CUV deliveries rose to 109,000 from 82,000. With monthly sales running about 21,000 units and four months to go in fiscal ’15, the 300,000 mark seems attainable.
“Things are going extremely well for us,” O’Sullivan observes.“So far, so good.”
His next goal: possibly 400,000 sales in fiscal 2016 as recently introduced models gain a firmer foothold and a new assembly plant in Salamanca, Mexico, launches production in the spring.
Mazda does not offer hybrids or electric vehicles and has yet to introduce a diesel option in the U.S., although it sells the diesel-powered C5 CUV elsewhere. Plans to introduce a diesel Mazda6 in the U.S. this year have been delayed and launch now is eyed for spring 2014.
Nevertheless, O’Sullivan says Mazda’s proprietary Skyactiv technology helps make its entries competitive and more affordable in the fuel-economy sweepstakes while also maintaining performance attributes. Skyactiv zeroes in on all vehicle systems to reduce weight and improve fuel economy while reducing emissions, as well.
Skyactiv is incorporated in the Mazda3 and Mazda6 cars and the CX5, he says, with component sharing to optimize efficiency, and will flow to other vehicles as new models launch.
Mazda has an EV and hybrid licensing agreement withif it chooses to go that route, O’Sullivan says. “We can be fast followers, but we see EVs as for the future. We think internal-combustion engines will account for 90% of the market in the 2020s and beyond.”
Mazda is counting on the all-new Mazda3 compact soon to be built in Mexico to provide a sales boost. “We just started shipping the new Mazda3 and the sell-down of the old model is going well, but the inventories of the Mazda2 (subcompact) and Mazda3 are running pretty thin,” he says.
Helping the cause is the widespread acclaim the Mazda3 has garnered from major car magazines and other critics, he says. It’s also a finalist for North American Car of the Year honors, which will be announced Jan. 13 at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
The imported Mazda6, which replaced the previous-generation midsize sedan produced jointly within Flat Rock, MI, was introduced a year ago and contributed 39,000 sales during its first full 11 months on the market. It also has been greeted with positive reviews, and the Mazda brand as a whole finished fifth out of 28 brands in Consumer Reports’ recently announced 2014 reliability ranking.
Mazda’s CUV stable now includes the CX5 and CX9; the CX7 has been phased out. Demand for both has outpaced supply, O’Sullivan says.
The CX5, which J.D. Power & Associates ranked highest in appeal among compact CUVs, is second only to the Mazda3 among all models it sells in the U.S. with 73,000 sold through November. The larger, more upscale CX9 has a near-term market potential of 30,000 deliveries annually, O’Sullivan says. The CX9 accounted for 23,000 sales through November.
Looking ahead to 2014, O’Sullivan predicts overall U.S. sales of 16 million to 16.1 million as the industry’s recovery continues.