LA show: CX-3 to steal Mazda 3 sales

MAZDA admits its new CX-3 will cannibalise sales of its most popular model, the 3.

The new compact Holden Trax-fighting SUV – which will sit below the strong-selling CX-5 when it arrives about March or April 2015 – shares an engine with the small hatchback and sedan, and will offer similar interior space to the 3.

With pricing expected to start in the low-$20,000 bracket the Mazda CX-3 will also be similarly priced to the 3 (which starts at $20,490 for the manual Neo) while also hitting the top of the Mazda 2 range ($21,990 for an automatic Genki).

“Obviously it’ll have an impact on those but we’ve already forecast that into all our planning,” said Mazda Australia marketing director Alastair Doak.

Already the small car market has softened as the market continues to fragment and SUV sales continue to boom.

For the first 10 months of 2014 sales of passenger cars have dropped 1.6 percent, with the more affordable small cars (those priced below $40,000) down 5.3 percent, or 11,000 cars.

SUV sales have grown 8.5 percent, with small SUVs accounting for most of the growth; small SUVs are up 23.3 percent, or 14,000 cars.

Doak says the market will continue to fragment but that being present in the small SUV segment was crucial to future growth.

“We’ve done some pretty comprehensive research around what the likely reaction is to our car and to that segment. We’re comfortable where the numbers will be.

“There is brand upside [for Mazda] – there is incremental volume to the brand for this car.”

Mazda is hoping the CX-3 will redefine the small SUV segment, which is growing strongly and forecast to continue to attract more buyers.

Doak hinted competitors such as the Holden Trax and Ford EcoSport had underperformed because of their narrow model ranges; neither is available with four-wheel-drive, for example, and each has holes in its model range.

“We are looking to do a pretty comprehensive range,” said Doak. “That’s what the segment needs – I don’t think anybody has quite nailed that yet, I think they’ve all tried to play a little bit too niche. They’ve limited the range. They’ve either gone all high end or they’ve got limited choice of transmission.”

“We’re going to have petrol, diesel, front-wheel drive, all-wheel drive, manual, auto. This segment is forecast to grow substantially so why wouldn’t you go in there with a substantial range?”

Such a move will undoubtedly challenge other models in the Mazda showroom.

That fragmentation and the arrival of models such as the CX-3 is expected to slow growth of Mazda 3 sales, which are up 4.7 percent in 2014.

But Doak says the small car market will continue to be the biggest single segment in Australia for some time yet and that some buyers do not want an SUV, something that will ensure the 3 remains the top selling model for the brand that could next year sit behind number one-placed Toyota on the sales charts.

“Some people still don’t like them [SUVs],” he said. “They are small SUVs, they’re not for everybody. They are by their nature compact models. SUV up to this point has been bought for more practical reasons and that’s why we don’t see this car having an impact on CX-5 – it’s a different life stage.”

Doak said the CX-5 and its competitors would continue to appeal to families and other people who need more space.

The CX-3 was “more about giving people choice - it’s the continuing diversification of the market”.

“CX-3 is smaller than that so it much more a young person, young couple kind of car.”

The CX-3 will be sold with a 1.5-litre turbo diesel engine and the same 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine from the Mazda 3.

It will come as a two-wheel drive and four-wheel drive with a choice of manual or automatic transmissions.

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