Well, folks Mazda has finally done it. Built a vehicle that has a great shot at making it in the semi-premium space and that vehicle is the CX-9.
The redesigned three-row crossover finally gives the automaker a real fighting chance in the more profitable higher-priced space, something it’s tried unsuccessfully to do in the past with the 929 sedan and the Millenia.
The automaker’s made a huge effort to position the 2016 CX-9 as a luxury SUV, without the luxury pricing. Mazda hopes it not only will win new customers, but boost brand loyalty, which ranks among the lowest in the industry.
To prove it’s serious about going upmarket, Mazda is outfitting the redesigned CX-9 with a new Signature trim level that includes all-wheel drive, leather seats and even matte rosewood and aluminum trim. It also recently debuted new LED headlights it says are the first in its class.
If it sells well, the automaker is considering bringing the trim level to the Mazda6 sedan and the CX-5 crossover, Robert Davis, senior vice president for U.S. operations, told Automotive News at the CX-9 press launch in May.
The CX-9 Signature will start at $44,915, including destination. That’s $7,410 more than the previous ceiling on the CX-9, but it includes plenty of features not on the earlier model, and it’s noticeably less than its competition: the Honda Pilot, Toyota Highlander and Ford Explorer.
“For Mazda, it’s not always about having higher prices, but it’s about creating vehicles that have a higher value,” Davis said. He thinks the CX-9 could make a place for itself between the Honda Pilot and Acura MDX, and below the hot-selling Volvo XC90.
Mazda knows there is more to it than adding real leather to the interior and using the word ‘luxury’. It has a two-part plan to lure in the kind of premium buyers it wants.
First, Mazda plans to target existing CX-9 owners. The automaker will offer to extend their leases until they can get their hands on the new 2016 model. Later this year, Mazda hopes to win new customers at events like its Drive For Good test-drive-based donation campaign.
“We’ve got to start communicating with those people directly and hopefully gain a little bit more confidence in their minds about being trusted and how we’re focused around prestige and style,” Davis said.
Mazda wants to sell around 35,000 CX-9s a year in the U.S. That would top the nameplate’s peak sales of 34,421 in 2011 and nearly double the CX-9’s levels for the past two years.
At this point, Mazda doesn’t plant to launch a hybrid version. But a diesel version is possible.
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