Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Mazda: Using Design to Sell Cars

I really like Mazdas. I almost bought a hatchback Mazda 3, and still might if the Volvo dies suddenly (but not unexpectedly, after 240,000 miles). Apparently, I'm not alone, as this is one car company that is seeing sales heading up (at least in 2007) while so many others are wilting.

But, when you look at it, they don't offer anything anyone else doesn't, with the possible exception of the soon to be discontinued Mazda6 wagon and hatchback -- oh, and that funny rotary engine thing. Their cars get decent mileage, but not incredible -- again, except that rotary engine thing, which is addicted to gas. Interiors are nice, but again, not run away leaders in the pack. Reliability is also pretty good, so that doesn't hurt. But their shared platforms with Ford products mean you can pretty much get the same thing elsewhere. Even their "zoom-zoom" ad campaign is kinda lame. And aside from the Tribute hybrid, the only possible thing remotely green is the paint.

What Mazdas do have going for them is their strong design. (GM, Ford, Chrysler: please note that people actually do look at the exterior of cars.) Mazda's cars and cross overs look really good, and all have a corporate semblance so that you recognize each as a part of the corporate stable. There is a great aggressive sportiness, and a grace that goes into each model. Even the RX8, quirky as it is, is pretty charming. The only ugly duckling is the Tribute, a rebadged Ford. Mazda smartly uses design as the thing that makes them different, and different in a good way. And the progression of each model over time, especially notable with the Miata, and now with the new Mazda6 coming out, the picture just keeps getting better.

I only hope that they end up bringing the Mazda6 wagon here after all. It is really sharp looking. Maybe hook it up to a hybrid drive train. And put a big-ass sunroof in it. Throw in an interior that isnt a huge solid expanse of grey while we are at it. Bu-bye Volvo...

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