Mazda: Pandemic-Resilient, Forward-LookingBy Andrea Villar | Tue, 02/23/2021 - 05:00
Q: How has Mazda adapted to the pandemic?
A: It has been quite an experience because we were all taken by surprise. Many of my colleagues told me that I was exaggerating when on March 13 we sent everyone to work from home to prevent any contagion. At that time, one of the main objectives was to give the employees peace of mind but also security. I have always said that companies are made of people and without them, there are no companies. That said, the most challenging thing was to understand what our employees, our distributors, Mazda Corporation and our customers wanted. Achieving a perfect balance between these players was tremendously challenging but also rewarding.
We were proactive in implementing actions, strategies and tactics to get around the pandemic. The main focus was always to keep our employees and customers safe while continuing to deliver results. Almost nine months after the pandemic hit, we can proudly say that this strategy has worked.
Beyond that, we all learned a great deal, both professionally and personally. We learned that it is not necessary to go to an office to work. We learned to communicate through technology and to live together as a family while working. Among all the unfortunate things that this crisis has brought, it has also created good opportunities because we learned to value many things that before we likely did not. Most of all, we realized the importance of people and health.
Q: What drove Mazda's results during the pandemic?
A: Our performance was a result of our people. At Mazda, in addition to being a team, we are a family. Due to great communication between employees, with our headquarters in Japan and with our clients, we had better results than expected. This may sound like a cliche but it’s true: even if a company has a good product, at a good price with excellent aftersales service, without the team’s enthusiasm to help customers, everything else is worthless.
Mazda has been in Mexico for 15 years and we have never achieved results like we did this year. In October, for example, Mazda exported 206.9 percent more units than in the same period last year. Mazda is a brand that, beyond the features and good performance it offers, has a special charm that has made Mexicans fall in love with our products.
Q: What role are electric and hybrid vehicles playing in Mazda’s lineup in the country?
A: In Mexico, we will soon introduce a mild-hybrid technology in two of our vehicles. The technology helps to decrease pollutant emissions and improves vehicle efficiency. This mild-hybrid system uses a small Integrated Starter Generator (ISG) to capture the energy that is normally wasted during braking and stores it to power the vehicle's electrical systems, reducing the load on the engine and saving fuel in the process.
Q: What strategies is Mazda implementing to increase regional content?
A: Mazda is working every day to meet these requirements in Mexico and in the North American region. We are building, for instance, a US manufacturing plant in Alabama. This is a co-investment with Toyota. The aim of this project is to meet these new requirements without harming the customer. If we do not meet these requirements, we have to pay a fee, which then needs to be reflected in the price.
Steel is a very important material for Mazda because of its distinctive design and production. To date, however, there is no steel supplier in the country that can meet our requirements. This is undoubtedly one of the main challenges. Establishing suppliers in the region is not a task that can be accomplished overnight. Research, development, investment and government support are needed.
We want to maintain and increase production in Mexico. Partnerships like the one we have with Toyota are an extremely valuable part of our medium-term strategy. One of our objectives through this partnership is to comply with increasingly strict environmental regulations worldwide. Collaboration is necessary and we are sure that it will make us stronger in the future.
Q: What efforts is Mazda making in Mexico to address gender inequality in the company?
A: At Mazda's Mexico headquarters, 40 percent of the employees are women. Of the seven directors in the management team, three are women. I am a firm believer in the commitment, dedication and ability of women. Likewise, at the manufacturing plant, more than 40 percent of the staff working on the final assembly line is female. We are a company strongly committed to gender equity. We employ people because of their skills and no other reason.
On the other hand, the automotive industry, in general, has been dominated by men for many years. Certain stereotypes, as well as misconceptions, still need to be dispelled for us to see more women taking part in the industry.
Q: What impact does Mazda anticipate from the pandemic in the long term?
A: Recovery will be rather slow. We are forecasting that it will take us until 2024 to reach the industry levels of 2019. There is no macroeconomic indicator that suggests otherwise. There are activities like production and exports that are responding much better. The US market has performed well, although in November, growth slowed down. Because of its production plant in Mexico, this market is a main customer for Mazda, so our efforts are also focused here.
To boost recovery, the economic base would have to be much stronger. There should be more support for entrepreneurs and SMEs. By supporting the latter, consumption is generated and those people are the ones who buy a vehicle. The middle class drives the economy and it should be supported at this time to drive consumption and activate the automotive industry and many others.
Mazda de Mexico is the local subsidiary of Japan-based Mazda Motor Corporation. The company has manufacturing operations in Salamanca, Guanajuato, where the Mazda2 and Mazda3 are assembled