Dealerships ,

MAZDA Australia’s first expansion of dealers numbers since 2000 is proceeding apace with the first two of the planned six new dealerships already opened.

The first, in Caroline Springs in Melbourne’s growing north west corridor, was open for business in December and the other, in Rockingham, south of Perth in WA opened last month.

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Another four will open this year at Hillcrest, Queensland; South Morang (Victoria); Campbelltown (NSW); and North Adelaide (SA).

The expansion takes Mazda’s network numbers from 128 to 134 and complements a combined dealer investment of $160 million on new or refurbished premises in the past five years.

Martin Benders

Martin Benders

Mazda Australia managing director, Martin Benders, said dealer numbers were deliberately capped from the year 2000 until last year.

“We made a decision in light of increasing market share to stay with the dealer numbers as they took us to 120,000 a year in sales,” he said.

“Now we’re relieving some of that pressure on the dealers with an additional six dealers.”

In the past 15 years, sales went from 25,000 a year to last year’s 114,024 vehicles.

“We have 130 dealers now and the additional four in 2016 puts us in a position where we’re comfortable,” Mr Benders said.  “We can’t see any need, at this time, to expand any further.”

Mr Benders said that Mazda Australia’s new head office, a significantly larger building that will be leased for a minimum of 10 years, had “caught up”, with the combined $160 million Mazda dealers have spent in dealership development and renovation since 2010.

Mr Benders said that in addition to the new head office building the company had upgraded other premises.

“We now have new car compounds built in Perth, Melbourne and Brisbane; and offices in Melbourne, Adelaide and Sydney,” he said.

He said the expansion of dealerships and head-office facilities were complementary to new or revised dealer programs.

“We like to think that our dealers do a pretty good job and that’s evident by the recent JD Power survey,” Mr Benders said.

The JD Power 2015 Australian Customer Service Study showed Mazda was the second highest rating manufacturer with 813 points from a possible 820, second to Honda with 816 points.

“Now we have new projects that we will roll out to streamline the dealership processes, including an upgrade of our Owner Communication Program that we started in 2001,” he said.

“This program, which maintains a relationship between the dealer and the customer, will be enhanced because over the past 15 years our dealers have become more professional and have engaged their own marketing companies.

“This has created a lot of overlap and double-handling.  So it will be upgraded.”

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Mr Benders said there were other programs within the company that will also be “tidied up so customers don’t get the run around” and don’t receive too much information from the dealer.

The drive to improve dealer practices with new programs and training follows on from a global initiative by Mazda.

Mazda in the UK, for example, has borrowed some initiatives from Australia and is soon to start dealer training and improve customer service techniques.

Mr Benders said “there is an awareness in other markets of what we have achieved with Mazda in Australia”.

“Part of that is our culture here and the fact that our dealers have been with us for a long time, instilling loyalty,” he said.

“We are very fortunate to have our dealers fighting for us. It is very much a partnership in Australia so there is a strong relationship between the manufacturer and the dealers.

“In the case where dealer groups – like AHG or AP Eagers – have Mazda franchises, we require that the dealer principal has equity in the business.

“If we look at the UK, there are a lot of dealer groups owning franchises without this form of equity by the dealer principal, so the relationship is different.”

By Neil Dowling

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