Mazda New Zealand could have introduced its hot new mid-size sedan as a pre-Christmas present, like it did for Australians but, instead, we're having to wait until February or maybe March for the Mazda6.
"The trouble is, the mid-size sedan and wagon market in New Zealand is dominated by fleet sales," said Andrew Clearwater, Mazda New Zealand's managing director. "And the fleet market's basically dead at the end of the year. It doesn't get going again until into the new year, so we've chosen to wait."
Mazda wants to introduce the new car with a bang, not a whimper.
In Australia, a big chunk of Mazda6 sales are to private buyers. In NZ, the company is lucky if a third of total sales are made to private buyers.
Clearwater spoke to Driven at the Australasian unveiling of the car at a special preview before the Australian International Motor Show that opened at Sydney's Darling Harbour yesterday.
Mazda has a lot riding on the third-generation Mazda6, which has become one of the country's most popular mid-sizers since it was introduced in 2002. But it's under a lot of pressure from such rivals as Ford's Mondeo and the Toyota Camry.
The new version enters the market minus the popular hatchback, which has been dropped.
The hatch racked up more than 20 per cent of sales, while the sedan did just under a quarter. The wagon made up the rest.
"We're assuming that without the hatch, the sedan will account for 35 per cent of sales," said Clearwater. "We think that half of the hatch buyers will go to either the sedan or wagon, almost a third will go to CX-5 crossover (introduced earlier this year) and the balance will buy outside Mazda."
Mazda's looking for sales of 1400 a year, enough to grab almost 20 per cent of the segment.
Clearwater said it's "far too soon" to talk about pricing; there's still haggling to do with the factory and prices are unlikely to be set until just before the cars go on sale.
Mazda's particularly keen to get its hands on the diesel Mazda6, partly to counter the diesel Mondeo, which has hurt the Japanese car. Although a diesel was available in the outgoing model, it wasn't picked up by NZ.
The new Skyactiv 2.2 litre diesel is said to suit the car. It produces 129kW of power at 4500rpm and 420Nm of torque at 2000rpm. Overall fuel consumption is 4.8 litres per 100km and CO2 emissions, 122g/km. The range also includes, with two petrol motors, the Skyactiv-G 2.0 litre and the Sky-G 2.5 litre.
There's not a manual gearbox to be seen. All models have the Skyactiv-Drive six-speed automatic transmission.
Although pricing's still up in the air, Mazda's worked out how the cars will be specified. All models will have 17-inch or 19-inch alloys; Bluetooth; colour touchscreen audio on all models with reversing camera; and Smart Start with keyless entry on Limited models.
GSX and Limited models will have i-Eloop, Mazda's brake energy regeneration system; TomTom navigation; and a Central Commander Dial that replicates steering wheel and touchscreen functions. The TomTom's maps and software can be updated as often as the owner likes.
Limited models get leather trim; 11-speaker Bose audio; sunroof; bi-Xenon headlamps and LED lighting; and i-Activsense safety technologies.
The i-Activsense includes blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning, high beam control; and adaptive front lighting that turns headlights based on the degree of steering input and vehicle speed to give good illumination and visibility in curves and at intersections.
It also incorporates active cruise control that judges the relative speed and distance to the car ahead and maintains a safe following distance; and Smart Brake Support that reduce a collision's severity by automatically applying the brakes when a risk of frontal collision is detected.By Phil Hanson