LOS ANGELES--Mazda's U.S. sales boss expects to reverse three years of declining Mazda3 sales with the 2012 version equipped with the automaker's new Skyactiv power train technology.
The updated Mazda3, which arrives in dealerships this month, gets a four-cylinder, 2.0-liter gasoline direct-injection engine and a manual or automatic six-speed transmission--all from the new Skyactiv portfolio.
The new engine--standard on midlevel trims--boosts power and fuel economy from Mazda's older 2.0-liter, which still powers the base Mazda3.
The new power train, which helps the sedan version receive a 40-mpg highway rating, combined with a price cut for the hatchback, will boost Mazda's best-selling nameplate in 2011, says Ron Stettner, head of U.S. sales for Mazda North American Operations.
The Skyactiv-equipped hatchback version starts at $19,745, including shipping. The 2011 hatchback, which only came with a more powerful 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, started at $20,840.
"This opens us to a whole new customer base that we've never experienced before," Stettner said. "We were not in that marketplace simply from a price point or from an mpg standpoint.
"Our sedan buyers don't buy hatchbacks and vice versa," he said. "The way we've positioned the hatch prior to Skyactiv has been with the 2.5-liter and that's always been on our pricier side. We're lowering the entry point and we're going to capture more people."
TV commercials featuring the Mazda3 and Skyactiv power train should begin by mid-November, Stettner said.
From January through September, Mazda3 sales were down 5 percent from last year to 79,185 units. Annual sales of the model have fallen every year since 2007 when a record 120,235 units were sold.
But Stettner said a 12 percent sales increase in September gave the Mazda3 a 6 percent share of the compact segment for the month, up from 5.5 percent earlier this year. He said he expects the updates and new advertising will enable the Mazda3 to build on that momentum.
(Source: Automotive News)