GRIM up North? Not for everyone.
‘Once you have a critical mass, people see the cars more, and sales develop.’ That’s Mazda UK’s sales director, Jeremy Thomson, explaining the brand’s significant success North of the border. ‘We have double UK average penetration in Scotland’.
But it’s not just people seeing the cars – it’s the people selling them, too. ‘Our Scottish dealer network is very well-developed. There are many family-owned businesses, rather than PLCs. They often have strong relationships with customers, with repeat business going back years.’
More recently, though, Mazda itself has been developing, and it is this that Thomson sees as an opportunity for dealers. ‘As our portfolio has gown, volumes have become more viable for medium-sized businesses.’
Not only does Mazda retail the world’s best-selling sportscar, but it also has superminis, family hatches, large family cars and a compact MPV in its range. Concepts show directions for possible city cars and compact SUVs, too.
But those dealers won’t be selling cars like bags of flour if Thomson gets his way. ‘We need to offer a vanilla-flavoured sales experience. If customers are in the showroom, they’re already warm. That’s why we’ve invested so heavily in dealer training over the last six months.’
‘With sales staff churn, we need to slow the sales process and show our heritage.’ Thomson emphasises the slowing down part. ‘Customers are disappointed if you sell cars like commodities. There is no brand benefit. Retention levels are poor.’
‘Dealers need to become brand advocates.’
That’s why Thomson is encouraging dealers to learn Mazda ‘stories’ – three or four highlighters on each car, that can help colour in the model and the brand for customers.
‘To help this, we’ve been sending out booklets –‘A to Z of Mazda’ – and also helping dealers at training events.’
Dealers, for example, were told the Mazda 2 is 200kg lighter than a Peugeot 207. This has benefits for handling and driving fun. How to portray to customers? Mazda laid on a standard Mazda 2 for dealers to drive – plus one with two bags of sand in the back, for them to feel the difference.
‘The difference is like driving round with two big mates permanently in the back.’ And it’s something dealers are able to take back to the showroom – and then throw into discussions with customers.
Expect more of this from Mazda. ‘It’s all about engaging people. Media fragmentation means you have to be more creative with your advertising budget spends.’ The creative spark is vital not just in the cars, but in the way they’re sold…