Mazda is counting on the RX-8 sports car to boost its image and make customers look more closely at its other products.

Japanese manufacturer Mazda is counting on the RX-8 sports car to boost its image and make customers look more closely at its other products.

The RX-8 was officially launched in Japan last month. Kenichi Yamamoto, managing executive director at Mazda, said the manufacturer wants to use the RX-8 to ensure customers see Mazda as a separate entity to Ford.

"Just as Jaguar has to be Jaguar, Volvo has to be Volvo, Mazda has to be Mazda," Yamamoto said, referring to luxury brands owned by Ford. "We have to send that message to our customers very clearly, and we can do that through our rotary engine and sports cars."

The company clearly hopes that customers will go to showrooms to see the RX-8 and also look at its other products more closely. "It's the ideal car for active customers who wanted a sportscar but had been unable to own one because of the needs of their families and friends," Mazda president Lewis Booth said at the launch.

The RX-8 is priced at about R193 000 in the United States and is cheaper than most of its rivals. Mazda said the cost has been brought down because the RX-8's new Renesis rotary engine has been stripped of its turbocharger. It is a third of the size and 25 per cent lighter than the previous model and also costs less to make.

"The car isn't just a brand icon, so if we don't have a certain level of volume, then that has an impact on the profitability of the car," said Masazumi Wakayama, Mazda's general manager of marketing. "And the young family market we're targeting doesn't have the disposable income to spend so much."

Mazda hopes to sell about 1 000 units a month in Japan and has already had 5 000 pre-launch orders for the car. The company said more than 130 000 potential customers have asked for more information on the car in the United States. Mazda is aiming to sell about 60 000 units a year.

"The RX-8 is great fun to drive, it's very smooth, and a usable, four-door four-seater," said Steve Usher, senior analyst at JP Morgan told . "In terms of what it's going to do for Mazda's image, the RX-8 is going to be very important.

"There's a very clear product strategy now in place at Mazda, not only in terms of design but in terms of technology and performance," Usher said.

But other analysts have doubts. "Mazda's marketing strategy is still very weak," Koshi Kumagai, senior fund manager at HSBC Asset Management, said. "The RX-8 may be good, but you can't change Mazda's brand image overnight."

Do you think this strategy will work?

Original article from Car