Mazda’s rapid sales growth in the United Kingdom over the last two years will need to be consolidated over the next couple of years, according to Mazda Motors UK managing director Phil Waring.

Sales in 2003 are up more than 40%, year-on-year. “We cannot continue to grow at that rate,” said Waring. Sales this year will reach 39,000 and Waring predicts reaching 60,000 over the next four years.

“The four new products we have launched have generated huge interest in Mazda and now the challenge is to build a sustainable business by maximising the opportunities that these products have given us,” Waring said.

Since Mazda took over its own UK distribution, the dealer network has grown from a low of 102 to 140 and the company plans to have 155 dealers by the end of next year. “Mazda has never known what it’s like having a robust dealer network that is making money,” said Waring. “Dealers who make money sell cars.”

The launch of the RX-8 is particularly exciting for the dealers. Holding RX-8 driving weekends was proving very fruitful with one South-West London dealer taking orders for 19.

While the last two years had helped develop the quantity, the task now was to develop the quality of Mazda’s service, Waring said. “But we must never think we can do no wrong or become arrogant. We are two years ahead of our 2001-05 business plan and we are going to have to look again at our growth.”

In terms of sales, Mazda UK is still in Division 3 of the car maker’s league. Division 1 of for those national distributors with sales of more than 100,000; Division 2 is for those whose sales are above 60,000. Then there’s the drop to the sub-40,000 sales. The jump from division 3 to 2 is a big one, and one that companies like Audi and Honda have made successfully.

“We can learn lessons from them,” said Waring. “If we grow too fast, our resources will get too stretched. We need to look at the right time to make more investment.”