Wheels (Australia) - - Head To Head -

HAVE you no­ticed how car com­pa­nies are now so fo­cused on the cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence? Bereft of fleet vol­ume de­liv­ered by lo­cally built cars, Ford and Holden have been wax­ing lyri­cal about it. These days even Toy­ota calls its cus­tomers ‘guests’. Well, talk­ing the talk is fine, but Mazda Aus­tralia has been walk­ing the walk since the 1990s. It’s a key rea­son it ranks so high in the sales race here and is a stand­out per­former for its Ja­panese par­ent. Mal­colm Gough, MD in the 1990s, was the orig­i­na­tor of the pri­vate cus­tomer fo­cus. It worked very much on the ba­sis of dis­trib­u­tor, dealers and the cus­tomer get­ting a fair deal. Sounds sim­ple but the devil’s in the de­tail. For in­stance, Mazda has barely ex­panded its dealer net­work in tripling its sales to more than 100,000 per an­num. More cus­tomers means more in­come, which makes Mazda fran­chises very lu­cra­tive. But those dealers are ex­pected to de­liver for their cus­tomers and hit ex­act­ing stan­dards de­manded by Mazda.

Gough went to Ja­pan to teach the Aus­tralian mantra and his suc­ces­sors Doug Dickson and Martin Ben­ders (who also served in Ja­pan and Europe) con­tin­ued the pri­vate cus­tomer fo­cus.

Both Dickson and Ben­ders were longterm Mazda men and so is cur­rent MD, the Fi­jian-born Bhindi, who started as a dealer man­ager 22 years ago and worked his way up through the ranks.

Mazda has be­come the pin-up com­pany for suc­cess­ful ve­hi­cle re­tail­ing in 21st cen­tury Aus­tralia, which also means its ri­vals see it as a tar­get to be knocked off.

If they can fig­ure out how to do it and pro­vide bet­ter ser­vice to all of us that’s prob­a­bly good news … for ev­ery­one ex­cept Bhindi and his man­age­ment team.

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