Going premium - How is Mazda doing in South Africa?

Image: Wheels24 /  Sergio Davids
Image: Wheels24 / Sergio Davids

Five years after gaining its local independence, what is the state of Mazda in Mzansi? We look at the brand and its business. 

Mazda is a fiercely independent Japanese brand. It is not partly owned by another automotive entity and remains highly selective in its choice of joint-venture partners. 

The brand relaunched as a standalone company in South Africa during 2014 has been trading strongly since. Unlike many other Japanese brands, Mazda does not offer an 'emerging market' car in South Africa – sourced from India. 

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All its South African market products can be classed as European/Japanese specification in their structure and engineering. Many might question this strategy of not chasing sales volumes by marketing a sub R200 000 vehicle, but for Mazda, it has made little difference. 

Month after month it ranks a top ten passenger vehicle brand in the South African sales charts. The brand’s local product portfolio is seven models strong and includes a double-cab bakkie (BT-50) and compact sportscar (MX-5).

One aspect of Mazda’s South African business which could enjoy significant growth in the next few years is its share of the bakkie market.

The current BT-50 is in an advanced stage of its product lifecycle, with the new version due in late 2020 or early 2021, as part of a collaboration with Isuzu. Current BT-50 sales average between 20 and 30 bakkies per month – and a new design could easily double that, as South African double-cab bakkie demand remains very robust. 

Where Mazda has made a significant impact in the last few years, have been SUVs and crossovers. The brand’s distinctive styling is perhaps the best amongst current Japanese designs and that is supported by quality engineering. 

The combination of CX-3 and CX-5 account for more than half of Mazda’s local sales. Both vehicles are positioned in hugely competitive market segments, yet they claims impressive sales each month.

By virtue of example, in July the CX-3 tallied 332 units. That squares very favourably with a segment rival such as Toyota’s C-HR (185) or Renault Captur (83). Mazda’s larger CX-5 is perhaps the brand’s strongest business anchor in South Africa. Retailing in the R400 000- to R600 000 gravel travel vehicle segment, it gives a very good account of itself.

Last month Mazda’s CX-5 sales totalled 301, which is a good demand number, compared to similar vehicles such as Nissan’s X-Trail (110) or Kia Sportage (138). 

mazda,mx-5,mazda mx-5

                                                 Image: Warren Wilson

For decades Mazda was known as a hatchback, sedan and bakkie brand in South Africa. Nowadays most of its demand occurs in crossover and SUV division, which shows how successfully Mazda has diversified its business in response to evolving market trends. This week sees the introduction of the brand’s fourth-generation Mazda3, which competes with Toyota’s new Corolla hatch and VW’s Golf7.

More new product should enable Mazda to keep trading above 1000 units per month. Ten years ago Mazda was only trading in the 600-700 range, which shows just how strongly it has reasserted itself.


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