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Cautious planning will be key for Mazda's future

Date: 09 January 2018   |   Author: Debbie Wood

Brexit, recent taxation changes and the mixed press surrounding diesel is all having an impact on Mazda sales, and fleet boss Steve Tomlinson expects the market to become even more challenging over the coming year. 

The move away from diesel is very much becoming an established trend, and for manufacturers like Mazda, where fleet volumes are primarily diesel, a cautious approach to planning for the next fiscal year will be crucial. 

"I think that it's a shame that, after years of pushing and incentivising manufacturers and customers to focus on developing cleaner diesel cars, the government now sees fit to change its stance," Tomlinson tells BusinessCar. "Today's diesels are much cleaner than when the push for diesel was encouraged, so while I understand why we would want older diesel cars off the roads, for some drivers, diesel is still the most appropriate method of propulsion."

Despite the challenging market, from a core fleet perspective, Mazda is on track to deliver roughly 500 units fewer than the last fiscal year, which was Tomlinson's plan, given the general uncertainty of the market post-Brexit vote. The firm is also making moves to introduce alternatively fuelled vehicles, with an EV expected in 2019, a mild HEV in 2019 and a PHEV by 2021. However, these are global dates, and which markets around the globe will see these cars and when is yet to be decided. 

Mazda strongly believes there's still much that can be achieved from its combustion engines, and will be introducing its next-generation SkyActiv engine technology in 2019. Called the SkyActiv-X, the new engine combines the benefits of a spark-ignition petrol with those of a compression-ignition diesel to produce a crossover engine that delivers the best of both worlds. According to Tomlinson, the new engine will deliver a 35-40% improvement from the same displacement petrol engine in 2008 and will deliver the same fuel consumption as the firm's current 2.2-litre diesel.

"This is very exciting from a fleet perspective. With petrol refinement, but diesel torque and economy, SkyActiv-X's arrival could be perfectly timed for any future swing to petrol by fleet customers," Tomlinson says. 

Communication will be key and the fleet team has regular sessions with the firm's brand team, who update them with all of the latest technology and what might come in the future, as well as working with other stakeholders to make sure Mazda can offer fleets advice around current issues like WLTP and BIK tax.

"In terms of businesses, you might be surprised at how little some fleets know about what is going on, or is in our near future, not just at Mazda, but also across the whole industry," explains Tomlinson. "Given that vehicle manufacturers need to have all of the cars that they wish to sell beyond 31 August 2018 retested on the WLTP cycle, and that as a result the CO2 emissions of most cars are likely to go up, I think a major challenge will be trying to explain why fleets may need to consider a revised CO2 cap, if indeed they have one in place today. 

"It is unfortunate that, at the same time as CO2 emissions are increasing as a result of WLTP, the BIK taxation system is also becoming more punitive, as are the WDA rules. Every fleet will of course be different, but it will require my team to use their in-depth knowledge of all the changes to best advise their customers."

Despite the falling popularity of the D-segment in general, the Mazda 6 still holds the top spot in terms of volume for Mazda, while the new CX-5 takes second spot. and the Mazda 3 just marginally behind.



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