Mazda showed off its all-new 2016 CX-9 three-row crossover at the LA Auto show. We have no doubt that this new crossover will be the embodiment of Zoom-Zoom, at least as much as any big, seven-passenger vehicle can. In our earlier story, we went into details on the vehicle and its interesting decision to use a small, turbocharged, four-cylinder engine instead of going the safe route and using a V6 like its main competitors still do. Here we would like to point out what the Mazda CX-9 faces as it enters the market.
The Honda Pilot we recently tested was simply amazing. This all new vehicle is now very large and in its top Elite Trim, plush. What really knocked our socks off, though was the combination of lane keeping assist (LKAS) and adaptive cruise control. On a very long trip, we found the system fantastic. It works better than anything we have tested from any automaker and leaves a driver more energized after a long highway slog. This is closest thing to autopilot now on the market in a mainstream, reliable vehicle.
The Highlander from Toyota is also a formidable competitor. When we drove the new Highlander, we found that the more it is pushed, the better it handles. It was almost shocking that Toyota could take a soft and frumpy-feeling vehicle and imbue it with so much capability. The Highlander is also one of only nine models (two others are also Toyota/Lexus sport utes) that went three full years in the U.S. market without a single driver death. How does on top that safety rating?
Highlander sales are robust right now. Toyota moves about 13,000 each month, and the model is up almost 10% over last year to date in sales. Honda moves about 11,000 Pilots every month, and the new model is up by 20% over the old model’s sales. How is the old CX-9 doing? It sells at less than 10% of the volume these peers do selling only 1,200 units in November and the trend has been down. Aside from the specialty Miata, the CX-9 is Mazda’s slowest-selling vehicle in a segment that is now one of the largest of all. And the most important in many ways.
Is Mazda’s CX-9 going to turn things around? Can the company take this new product and battle the entrenched competitors and win? As a former salesperson and sales manager (not in the auto sector), I would take the CX-9 any day as my product. The opportunities seem amazing. Those poor folks over at Honda and Toyota trying to maintain top sales numbers are the ones with the harder and less exciting job. Just my $0.02. So what do you think? Comments welcome.