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Mazda UK is on the look out for 40 new dealers, particularly around the two largest cities – London and Birmingham.

Since taking over distribution from privately owned importer MCL late last year, the Japanese car maker, now owned by Ford, has had a long, hard look at its dealer network. Some have gone and some new ones are coming in, but a core of 112 remain – a platform on which Mazda is looking to build.

“We are looking to have 155 dealers in place by the end of 2004,” said dealer operations director Phil Waring. “Beyond that we are seeking a further 55 service points.”

Waring said that the current core of 112 dealers had been through some tough times with the Mazda marque over the past decade, but were now well placed to represent the brand.

“They have stayed with us through thick and thin and hopefully they can reap the rewards from the new product we have coming through.”

With big cities being the major open points, Mazda is very aware of the cost implications for new dealers. “London, the Home Counties and the M3 corridor are very expensive areas in terms of land,” said Waring.

“This may not be so much of a problem for large dealer groups but we identify the Mazda brand very much with ‘owner drivers’ in terms of our dealers. But we are looking at all the options available to us. We have had a number of inquiries generated by advertising, direct marketing and from some dealers who are perhaps disaffected by the brands they currently represent – particularly under the new [European Union] block exemption rules.”

Mazda, he said, wanted to make sure its dealers make money. “But I would say that, wouldn’t I?” said Waring. “What I mean is that we look carefully at the area where we need a dealer, the potential of the market in that area and how big an outlet can be run on a profitable basis.”

With the additional service outlets Waring said Mazda was open to suggestions.

“We could use independents, we could even use Ford outlets for servicing. The important thing is that customers do not want to travel great distances to service their cars so we asking the dealers for their view – who do they want to carry out servicing? It may be a satellite of their own operation or it could be an independent they know or trust. The important thing is that they meet our quality standards.”