First there was the BMW X6, released in 2008 as a less practical, more costly, less attractive version of the BMW X5.
Then along came the BMW X4, a less practical, more costly, less attractive version of the BMW X3.
Not to be outdone, Mercedes-Benz – upon changing the name of their long-running M-Class to GLE, introduced a GLE Coupe, a direct rival for the BMW X6. Mercedes-Benz didn’t stop there, having already debuted the “coupe” version of the Mercedes-Benz GLC.
Until now, this trend has been reserved for premium German brands. (You could argue that the Infiniti FX, now QX70, is a candidate for the segment, but if so, the FX was the originator, and it wasn’t an offshoot of a more mainstream family utility at Infiniti.)
Yet the first real effort to bring this type of coupefied crossover into the mainstream occurs with this Mazda CX-4. Yes, it’ll surely be less practical and more costly than the Mazda CX-5 on which it’s based. But then Mazda bucks the trend: it’s not less attractive.
So will it sell?
Forget the bulbous and overdone styling treatments applied to the X6, X4, GLE, and GLC. The CX-4 trades bulbous for swoopy and swaps overdone for tasteful.
Riding on the CX-5’s 106.5-inch wheelbase, the CX-4 is only 60-inches tall, half a foot lower than the CX-5. The CX-5’s cargo area is more than double the size as a result.
So how many copies of a less practical CX-5 can Mazda sell?
At Mazda USA, first-quarter new vehicle sales in 2016 plunged 17% after sales rose to a 21-year high in 2015. The two best-selling models, the 3 and CX-5, fell 19% and 3%, respectively. The newcomer, Mazda’s CX-3, produced fewer than 5,000 Q1 sales, not enough to overcome the losses accrued by the 6, CX-9, and discontinued 5 and 2.
In March, specifically, sales tumbled 27% at Mazda, a year-over-year loss of 8725 units as the industry recorded a 3% gain of 51,000 sales. Only 1.46% of the new vehicles sold in America in March 2016 were Mazdas.
It’s a story that attracted a great degree of attention at TTAC earlier this month, when, even as an appreciator of Mazda’s current products, I laid out the reasons I, as a car buyer, may have trouble pulling the trigger on a Mazda purchase.
Could the CX-4, if it makes it across from its debut territory of China to the United States, be a difference maker?
Let’s be optimistic about Mazda in order to make these projections. Forget the first-quarter of 2016 for the moment and return to 2015, when Mazda sales reached the highest level since 1994, albeit a year in which Mazda’s market share decreased from 1.85% in 2014 to 1.83% in 2015 as sales didn’t grow as quickly as the overall market.
Consider the relationship of the BMW X5 and BMW X6 as the primary example on the basis of the X6’s eight year lifecycle to date. Since launching the X6 in 2008, BMW USA reported 47,528 X6 sales to go along with 331,586 sales of the X5. Both the X6 and X5 achieved all-time U.S. sales records in 2015 – the X6 isn’t slowing the X5 down, in other words.
In 2015, the X6 accounted for 12.6% of the 62,903 total X5/X6 sales in America. Since 2008, 379,114, 12.5% of the 379,114 total X5/X6 sales in America were produced by the X6.
Of course, BMW isn’t Mazda. They compete at difference price points. Both the X5 and X6 are built in South Carolina. The Mazda CX-5, on the other hand, is one of the more popular true import vehicles in America.
But if we take the X6’s 12.5% share and apply it to the Mazda CX-4, Mazda would have sold 139,313 total CX-5s and CX-4s in 2015: 111,450 of the original CX-5 plus 27,863 CX-4s. Mazda sales wouldn’t have risen 4.4% to 319,184 units, the addition of a new CX-4 would have prompted a 13.5% year-over-year uptick to 347,047 sales.
And rather than claiming a paltry 1.83% of the U.S. new vehicle market, Mazda’s market share would have grown to 1.99%.
Which is, incidentally, is on par with BMW.
Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. Follow on Twitter @goodcarbadcar and on Facebook.