Mazda goes for youth market with music-fuelled campaign

China's top automakers drive off with record growth during first quarter

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BEIJING--On the eve of the Beijing Auto Show, which takes place April 22-28, Ford Motor Co. has launched a music-themed marketing campaign for its Mazda 2 model, which will run nationally in TV, print and online media and point-of-sales marketing.

Built by one of Ford’s two joint ventures in China, Changan Ford Mazda Automobile, the Mazda 2 was introduced last November at a motor show in Guangzhou in southern China. Available as a five-door hatchback and a four-door sedan, the car went on sale last January. A Mazda 3 five-door hatchback is due to go on sale in China in mid-2008.

Mazda hopes the car will broaden its share of the young, urban adult car market in China, described as “self-expressive 20-somethings,” said Morris Meng, an account director at D3, a subsidiary of DMG Group, one of China’s largest independent ad agencies, which created the campaign. The Mazda 2 is positioned “as the car for hip urbanites, China’s young, dynamic consumers.”

The 30-second spot opens with a spinning record morphing into the Mazda 2’s wheel and then into the shape of the steering wheel. The car glides through a modern Chinese landscape, then the spot cuts to the Mazda 2's red color, which blends into a red light on the interior music system. Viewers see a guitar neck emerge to represent the road ahead and watch as the car drives in circles around a speaker's vibrating sub woofer to the beat of a techno soundtrack. The spot ends with the tagline “Zoom, zoom.” (Click here to watch the ad on YouTube.com.)

Strong sales for GM and VW

Ford posted a 47% gain in first-quarter sales, with 90,791 vehicles sold, including imported Land Rover and Jaguar models and cars produced by its two joint ventures, Changan Ford Mazda Automobile and Jiangling Motor Corp., such as Ford Mondeo and Focus models.

Ford isn’t the only global car company that is counteracting a sluggish performance in the U.S. with strong sales in China. General Motors Corp. remained the largest global automaker in China in the first quarter of 2008. The U.S. auto giant and its Chinese joint ventures sold 311,512 vehicles, a record for any quarter for GM in China.

Quarterly sales of Chevrolet grew 36% year-on-year to 56,083 cars. GM also sells Buick and Cadillac models in China, and the Wuling Sunshine minivan remained GM’s best-selling auto in China, with sales during the first quarter exceeding 125,000 units.

The second-largest auto producer in China, Volkswagen Group, sold 268,200 vehicles in the first quarter, including sales in Hong Kong and Macau, a 32.5% increase over the first quarter of 2007. Sales of the VW brand amounted to 221,420 units, including 2,663 imported vehicles; Audi sold 30,425 cars, including 3,334 imports; and Skoda, VW’s Czech subsidiary, sold 16,212 cars. The German company expects to sell more than 1 million units this year.

VW to launch Lavida at auto show

Volkswagen will present two new models created for the Chinese market later this month at the Beijing Auto Show. One of them is a new mid-class sedan created by Shanghai Volkswagen Automotive Co., a 50-50 joint venture between VW and the Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp. Called Lavida, which means "life" in Spanish (la vida), it will be aimed at young consumers.

BMW’s first-quarter sales grew 43.2% year-on-year, to 14,574 units, while sales for Mercedes-Benz in China increased 40% year-on-year during the same period.

China is now the world’s third-largest producer of cars and trucks, following the U.S. and Japan, according to statistics from the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers.

The top 10 producers, which also included Germany, South Korea, France, Brazil, Spain, Canada and India, rolled out 55.3 million motor vehicles, accounting for 76% of the world's total production of 73.1 million. In 2007, the global output of passenger vehicles, including sedans, sport utility vehicles and minivans, rose 6.1% to 53 million. Sales of commercial vehicles like trucks and buses rose 3.7% to 20 million.

China's automakers produced 8.88 million motor vehicles last year, up 22% from a year earlier, including 6.38 million passenger cars and trucks and 2.5 million commercial vehicles, according to CAAM. Models produced by local companies accounted for more than 95% of commercial vehicles sold domestically and 40% of passenger cars.
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