MAZDA has stopped short of declaring an all-out war to wrest the title of Australia’s best-selling car from Toyota’s Corolla after sharpening the value of its Mazda 3 range.
The Japanese car maker, which ended last year in the number three spot behind Holden and Toyota for overall sales, today announced heavily revised pricing for almost every model in its compact 3 range apart from the entry-level $20,490 Neo.
According to the carmaker, the savings come from the introduction of the Japan-Australia free trade agreement, which cut a five percent tariff from vehicles imported from Japan.
While Neo pricing hasn’t changed, Mazda is saying it has added value, throwing in rear parking sensors it says are worth $1200, and casting off the steel wheels in favour of 16-inch alloys.
Further up the chain, Mazda’s strongest-selling 3 model, the Maxx Sport that attracts almost two out of every five buyers of the hatch and sedan, sheds $600 and adds foglamps to start from $22,390, the Touring, SP25 and SP25 GT all fall by $800, and the range-topping Astina drops between $940 for the diesel-engined version to $1150 for the petrol.
Last year, the Mazda 3 was locked in a close battle with Toyota’s $19,990 Corolla for the title of Australia’s most popular car. By the end of December, just a few hundred sales separated the two, with Corolla edging out the 3 with 43,735 sales.
However, Mazda Australia managing director Martin Benders said the Mazda 3’s sales differed from that of the Corolla by attracting more private and user-chooser buyers, where the Corolla relied on bulk-buying fleets to bolster its tally.
“While we missed out by 400 units, when you back out the government and the rental and large fleet stuff, we smashed them [Toyota],” Benders said.
“In the real buyers’ class, we did really well. Are we going to reach out to rental and fleet buyers just to beat Corolla? No.”
An indication of the 3’s popularity among buyers who hand over their own money is clearly shown in January’s sales figures, a time when fleet buyers are generally lying on beaches and job-lot purchases are put on ice. Mazda’s tally for the month was 3903 – enough to give it the title of Australia’s most popular car for the month ahead of the Corolla’s 3472.
Mazda is also waiting for the introduction of its CX-3 compact SUV, which will take on the likes of the Ford EcoSport, Holden Trax and even the all-new Honda HV-R in one of the hottest slices of the Australian market.
Benders would not be drawn on whether the CX-3 would also gain a significant price advantage when it arrives, saying only: “Watch this space.”
He also believes most buyers won’t back out of buying a Mazda 3 in favour of the higher-riding CX-3.
“We see people moving into the small SUVs will come out of light and small cars, but it will come across from all brands,” Benders said.
“What we see is that we have a very appealing car in the small segment, and we believe we will have a very appealing car in the small SUV segment … which will also give us an opportunity to conquest other brands that are moving across.”
In other words, what it loses from potential 3 sales as Mazda customers walk past the hatch and sedan to buy a CX-3, it reckons it will pick up from small car buyers who may have considered kicking tyres over at other brands – including Toyota.