Jan Brentebraten, the president of Mazda Motor Europe GmbH, was interviewed in Paris last month by Georg Auer.
Will you change your dealer network in Europe?
The basic philosophy is that the dealer network must make sufficient money to develop. The industry in general is moving toward bigger dealers. If you look at our bigger markets, we will have fewer dealers than we have today.
I don't want to give numbers. But we will probably have the same number of customer contact places.
In Germany 400 out of 800 dealers sell fewer than 60 cars a year. They cannot make money out of that but they are very important service points. In the future the focus might be more directed toward the service side.
We will go about this in an evolutionary way.
Those dealers do an important job. Their customer satisfaction, in general, is very high. That is why it is important to us to do this in an evolutionary way - because we need them.
Will Mazda and Ford have common dealers?
We do already. But they have to have separate premises, so as not to confuse the customers. Where that is not possible, then at least separate showrooms. We have such dealers in several markets.
Will you set up large, central dealers?
We have not given it too much thought but the main objective is to save cost.
When you advertise for just one dealer, you will cut costs - and cost will be a very decisive factor in the future.
What does distribution cost Mazda?
It differs from country to country. In Denmark it is much lower, but in general it is around 30 percent-plus.
Why did you move Mazda's European headquarters to Germany?
We are in Germany simply because it is Mazda's biggest market in Europe, and it is one of the most competitive markets in Europe. The information we get from the German marketplace is very useful in the rest of Europe.
In the past, two-thirds of our European central organization were Japanese. In the future it will be less than one-third Japanese and more than two-thirds Europeans.
There are major differences in the way business is done in Japan and Europe.
It is very important to have people who understand how business is done in the marketplace.
Finally, Europe spent most of its time in discussions with Hiroshima.
One was out of touch with what was going on in the marketplace. It was totally internally focused - instead of watching competition.
We have changed all that.
What about Eastern Europe?
Our experience in central Europe is quite mixed. We have good results where we are represented by Mazda Austria.
We are quite good in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, but we are extremely weak in Poland, Russia and the former Soviet republics. So it will be important to set up a proper organization in Russia.
If you don't manufacture in Russia your volume will be very low. Locally manufactured product outweighs imports 9: 1. So you have to have a manufacturing presence.
We plan to set up a dealer network in the main cities, get some experience and develop from there.