Mazda goes for emotional appeal
LOS ANGELES — Mazda doesnt see the slowing sedan market as an excuse to become complacent about its cars. In fact, it sees this as the perfect time to raise the bar with an artistic approach to design that enhances some of their emotional allure.
Mazda says the recently unwrapped Mazda3, shown at the Los Angeles Auto Show, represents an evolution of its Kodo design philosophy. The new Kodo language seeks to express elegance through clean designs that take into account how light and reflections move over a vehicle. Both the sedan and hatchback have smoother surfaces and fewer creases than earlier generations. Mazda also uses terms such as "Japanese mastery" to describe the premium touches to the interior.
"We believe a customer who loves driving, they love sedans as well," said Masahiro Moro, CEO of Mazda North American Operations. "A sedan can bring significant emotional value and driving pleasure. Mazda is a not a big company, but were happy to serve those particular consumers who love driving sedans or hatchbacks."
The Mazda3 also will lead the next phase of Mazdas "Feel Alive" marketing campaign, which began in April. Mazda has seen an uptick of around 3 percent in its Google searches since the campaign launched, while price quote requests on its site are up 50 percent, said Dino Bernacchi, chief marketing officer of Mazdas North American unit.
Bernacchi believes Mazda is getting on more consumers radar with a message that is resonating.
The messaging will be applied to a sector that Mazda hasnt competed in before: electrified vehicles. Mazdas timeline calls for a battery-electric vehicle in 2020 and a plug-in hybrid that might appear in 2021.
But Bernacchi doesnt see these additions affecting Mazdas marketing philosophy, which traditionally has touted the brands spirited internal combustion engines as fun to drive.
"I think having a diverse portfolio of capabilities in our lineup only adds to what we can do," Bernacchi told Automotive News during the Los Angeles show. "One of the things our engineers do better and more than anyone else is, we dont engineer to a specification. We engineer to a feeling. They will want to maximize what the feeling is out of those future EVs and hybrids."
Mazda also is getting ready to launch a new crossover in a few years. It will be tailored for the U.S., which Moro says is notable because Mazda usually develops vehicles based on global demand.
It will be built at a plant in Huntsville, Ala., shared with Toyota that will have the capacity for 150,000 crossovers a year, plus Corolla cars for Toyota.
While Moro couldnt comment on where the crossover will be positioned in the lineup, he said hes looking for "mainstream territory so we can capitalize [on] that capacity as much as we can. "