The Mazda6 has been a core component of the relaunched Mazda brand since its introduction in 2002.
Achieving the right balance of driver appeal, quality and practicality, and later competitive low-emission engines, the Mazda6 satisfied the often contrasting requirements of drivers and fleet operators.
Its status as the best fleet car of its type was assured early in its life cycle with a Fleet News Awards category win.
The 2007 second-generation model was an all-round improvement, and a year after winning the best upper-medium car category in the Fleet News Awards, the estate version took top honours in the new Best Estate Car category in 2010.
“What makes it so gratifying is that the Mazda6 is still winning awards a month or two before the facelifted model arrives,” says Mazda fleet and remarketing director Peter Allibon.
Mazda’s revised model is about to arrive in showrooms and behind the very light cosmetic refresh there are CO2 emission cuts on the diesel versions.
Emissions are reduced to 138g/km for 129bhp and 163bhp versions – a reduction from 147g/km or two BIK tax bands compared with the equivalent outgoing variants.
According to Allibon, the most chosen version of the Mazda6 is the 163bhp TS2 hatchback, a relatively high-specification and high-power variant, demonstrating the car’s appeal with user-choosers.
“There are very few options available on our cars – we like to keep it simple.
"We don’t produce enough cars globally to offer all the options that many other manufacturers can,” he says.
However, for the revised model, Allibon said one option had been made available through demand from customers.
“We found that variants like the TS2 were coming in maybe £20 or £30 under people’s monthly allowances, but there were no options available for them to spend up to their limit.
“We are now offering an upgrade to full leather trim so people can use their entire allowance.”
Although Mazda has begun to introduce fuel-saving technology, it has so far been restricted to petrol models.
Despite a 15% improvement in fuel consumption and a similar reduction in CO2 emissions, these versions are lacking in fleet appeal.
Mazda launched an i-Stop version of the Mazda3 in 2009, replacing the standard 2.0-litre petrol engine with one equipped with an automatic stop/start system.
The new Mazda5 people carrier due later this year is also available with the same engine.
Allibon admits that fleet customers would prefer to see this technology offered on diesel versions, but says it will arrive in due course.
He says that despite the company being a relatively small player in the UK compared with the likes of Ford, Vauxhall and Volkswagen, it can carry weight with its regional headquarters in Europe and at home in Japan when it comes to meeting the needs of fleet customers.
“We now have a European fleet organisation,” says Allibon, “but the UK is responsible for about 50% of Mazda’s fleet sales in Europe.
“Despite there being a fair distance between the UK and Japan, many people in senior positions in Mazda Europe are from the UK, so we gain some benefit from them understanding our requirements.”
Allibon says Mazda has tried to focus on selling into the fleet market through profitable channels and has not been forced to place cars through overstocking.
He reports that the latest version of the Mazda3 is beginning to find favour with fleets after a slow start in 2009.
“We’ve just seen Mazda3 getting traction this year, with the biggest sellers being TS and TS2 variants, the former favoured for essential users and the latter by user-choosers.”
Although Mazda does not yet offer a sub-100g/km car in this segment as a handful of other manufacturers do, Albion says the next generation of engines will offer significantly lower CO2 emissions.
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