Mazda UK has marked up a record-breaking year for sales in the UK and December 31st could see the company tip 50,000 sales in a year for the first time ever.
The company has already broken the previous sales record set in 2004 when it sold 48,800 vehicles and the company is buzzing with expectation that it may surpass the 50,000 milestone this year.
Whatever happens, Mazda's 2006 result, in a year when the passenger car market has been down over 5%, establishes the marque as a significant player in the UK car market.
Managing director Rob Lindley explained why 50,000 is such a significant figure. "It has a psychological impact on the company and the dealer network. Whilst we already know that we have exceeded 2 per cent market share, the actual number of sales is especially important to us.
"When Mazda took over the UK from the previous distributor, MCL, in 2001 sales of Mazda vehicles in that year were just 15,000. The previous sales record set by MCL was 33,000. Dealers were always being promised 40,000 but we have actually delivered that number and beyond.
"Having a 2 per cent market share puts us in the big league, among the top 10 or 12 car makers in the UK and separates Mazda from the smaller brands. Achieving between 45 and 50,000 sales for three successive years gives us more visibility on the road and provides an increasing service parc for the dealer network which improves long term viability."
Mr Lindley said he wanted to continue to push the brand forward, but he did not see double digit annual sales growth in the future. Future growth, he added, would concentrate on making sure Mazda stays top of the class in the segments in which it operates, improving penetration into new segments and improving the return on investment for its dealers.
There are still gaps to fill in the model line-up and this will be addressed in 2007.
Mr Lindley said: "We have not had an SUV since Tribute and that will change when we introduce the new CX-7 in the New Year. But the new CX-7 gives us a credible and very "Zoom-Zoom" entry into one of the fastest growing segments of late and it will also be very good for our brand image."
More important will be Mazda's new B-segment car which goes into production later in 2007. This is a new vehicle which should achieve significant gains for Mazda in future in a segment where it has not historically performed as well.
Mazda now has 159 dealers with another seven coming on line in the New Year filling some important open points. Mr Lindley expects a further eight or nine appointments in the future giving a total maximum of around 175 "which would leave us fully covered for any future growth plans," he added.
"What is important now is that the dealers make money. It has always been my intention that Mazda is in the top quarter of manufacturers for dealer profitability. That way Mazda UK can reasonably ask for a greater share of dealers' future investment and management time.
"Last year (2005) was not good for motor retail in general and the Mazda franchise was not immune to this. In 2006, I am very pleased that average dealer profitability has improved four-fold and we are in the top quarter of the franchises in our competitive set.
"In 2006 the main drivers behind an improved dealer return on sales have been more used vehicle sales, increasing sales of higher margin new vehicles like the MX-5 and RX-8 and reductions in fixed overhead costs.
"Looking forward to 2007 we are focussing on other things, particularly aftersales, to improve dealer profitability further while, of course, we can look forward to further margin opportunities from exciting new models such as the CX-7 and the high performance Mazda3 MPS which hits showrooms in February."
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