King­pin is re­vealed

Mazda gives us a glimpse of the new 3, writes PAUL GOVER

Herald Sun - Motoring - - News -

THE car that will set the di­rec­tion for Mazda in Aus­tralia for at least the next four years has just been un­veiled.

The all-new Mazda3 has the tough­est job for the brand. It must go up against the best-sell­ing Toy­ota Corolla and de­liver the bedrock sales to power the Mazda brand for­ward.

Mazda Aus­tralia has only re­leased a hand­ful of pic­tures of the new 3 and will keep me­chan­i­cal de­tails se­cret un­til the Los An­ge­les Mo­tor Show next month.

‘‘It’s very, very im­por­tant. It’s our key prod­uct. It com­petes in the small seg­ment, which is the largest in the in­dus­try and still grow­ing,’’ Mazda Aus­tralia manag­ing di­rec­tor Doug Dick­son says.

‘‘It’s bet­ter in ev­ery way from the cur­rent one.

‘‘We’ve been num­ber two in the small seg­ment for as long as we can re­mem­ber. We’ve al­ways had good suc­cess with small cars, go­ing back to the 323.

‘‘Small cars have been a sta­ple for us for don­key’s years.’’

The Mazda3 pic­tures show a car with more mus­cle than the cur­rent model, and a bold nose. They also hint at slightly more space in the cabin. But Dick­son will not be drawn. ‘‘The car gets here in 2009. That’s all we are say­ing at this mo­ment,’’ he says.

The of­fi­cial Mazda press in­for­ma­tion on the car says it ‘‘will rede­fine small-car bench­marks for styling, han­dling and value for money’’.

The sales num­bers for the Mazda3 are im­pres­sive, with a 14 per cent share of the small-car class. Dick­son says the com­pany will not push for much more.

In­stead, it is happy to con­vert pri­vate-car buy­ers and will not be chas­ing the fleet sales that would give it more vol­ume, but lit­tle more profit.

‘‘The sales rate is about 2700 or 2800 a month,’’ Dick­son says.

‘‘We’ll be happy with about the same sort of num­bers and share, then it would grow with the seg­ment. We don’t tar­get the whole mar­ket.’’

In any case, Mazda says it is lim­ited in the num­ber of 3s it can land in Aus­tralia.

Dick­son says the price of the new 3 has not been set, but he is not overly wor­ried by the re­cent fall in the value of the Aus­tralian dol­lar, ex­pect­ing a re­bound by next year.

‘‘I do tend to sup­port the an­a­lysts’ view that the Aus­tralian dol­lar has been over­sold,’’ he says.

‘‘To my way of think­ing, the long-term po­si­tion is 80 to 85 to the dol­lar. At 80 to 85 we are fine.’’

Nose job: the new Mazda3 has a bold nose and more mus­cle than the cur­rent car.

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