Sedans are on road to re­demp­tion

Herald Sun - Motoring - - NEWS - RICHARD BLACK­BURN richard.black­burn@news.com.au

THE hum­ble home­grown sedan may have been gob­bled up by the all-con­quer­ing SUV but car makers are not pre­pared to give up on the fam­ily sta­ple just yet.

In­dus­try bosses say that there is still de­mand for sedans from ex­ec­u­tives who are salary-sac­ri­fic­ing to pay for a new set of wheels.

But the “user-chooser” seg­ment, long dom­i­nated by the lo­cally built Holden Com­modore, Toy­ota Camry and Ford Fal­con, is set for a shake-up as ri­vals eye the po­ten­tial spoils when lo­cal man­u­fac­tur­ing shuts down.

Mazda MD Martin Ben­ders says the brand will be go­ing af­ter the Toy­ota Camry, which has dom­i­nated the mid-sized sedan mar­ket for years.

“The buy­ers in this seg­ment re­main largely cor­po­rate and ‘user-chooser’ buy­ers,” he says. “We’re do­ing more work in that sec­tor with prod­uct sup­port and ap­pro­pri­ate dealer train­ing and en­gage­ment to en­sure we cap­ture our share.

“The medium seg­ment con­tin­ues to be a story of one Go­liath and many Davids. It’s also a seg­ment that’s fast los­ing any rel­e­vance or res­o­nance with pri­vate buy­ers as they search for their favourite SUV op­tion.”

But he says there is an op­por­tu­nity for Mazda in the seg­ment and “that will in­crease as the lo­cals leave ... When Camry winds down, that changes the land­scape sig­nif­i­cantly.” In chas­ing sedan buy­ers, Mazda isn’t alone — pres­tige brands are lay­ing siege too. Mercedes-Benz’s C-Class is now com­fort­ably Aus­tralia’s sec­ond-best sell­ing mid-sized sedan, while BMW has just launched a new 3 Se­ries and Audi will have a new A4 on sale in Fe­bru­ary.

The C-Class has tal­lied al­most twice as many sales as the Mazda6 this year, the 3 Se­ries has out­sold the Subaru Lib­erty and the A4 has over­shad­owed VW’s Pas­sat.

Audi man­ag­ing di­rec­tor An­drew Moore says there is still sig­nif­i­cant scope for sedans.

“There’s a lot of com­men­tary about the sedan seg­ment trend­ing down as cus­tomers are ob­vi­ously buy­ing, es­pe­cially in this coun­try, the SUVs,” he says. “The re­al­ity is it’s not so black and white. We see tremen­dous op­por­tu­nity for the A4.”

He says there are still buy­ers “in­ter­ested in a good sedan. It’s been a great seg­ment for a long time for Audi and will con­tinue to be so. (In) small seg­ment sales, the A3 sedan has been ex­tremely suc­cess­ful for us.”

In­tense com­pe­ti­tion in the lux­ury seg­ment, he says, had pushed the Ger­man mar­ques to dra­mat­i­cally im­prove the value for money and buy­ers had re­sponded. More than one in 10 pas­sen­ger ve­hi­cles sold this year bore lux­ury badges on their bon­nets — a decade ago the ra­tio was roughly one in 20.

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