When Ford announced plans to completely eliminate passenger cars from its lineup way back in 2018, many Ford fans and enthusiasts were shocked and saddened that the automaker was killing of some beloved, long-running nameplates and vehicles. Unfortunately, shifting consumer preferences, along with a rapidly-changing automotive landscape, forced The Blue Oval’s hand to focus its energies (and investments) on more lucrative segments with more upside for long-term growth. And now, another familiar mid-size sedan will soon bite the dust, as Mazda has officially announced plans to discontinue the Mazda 6 from its U.S. lineup after the 2021 model year.
The move follows the official demise of the Ford Fusion, which ended its 15 year run in 2020 when the Ford Hermosillo Assembly plant began retooling in order to accommodate the 2021 Ford Bronco Sport.
The problem certainly isn’t limited to Mazda or Ford sedans either. Overall sedan sales have been trending downward for years, and the Mazda 6 is just the latest casualty. Kumar Galhotra, President of Ford North America and VP of FoMoCo, made this clear in an interview with Ford Authority last year. Sales of mainstream midsize sedans slipped 16.5 percent during the first quarter of 2021 to only 247,712 units, a substantial decline from the 296,852 units a year ago, and the Mazda offering constantly ranked toward the bottom of its segment from a sales volume standpoint. The Fusion, which consistently outsold the Mazda 6 by substantial margins, became unprofitable after the segment declined, which makes the Japanese company’s call to kill off the sedan a bit of a belated decision.
Sales Numbers - Midsize Mainstream Sedans - Q1 2021 - United States
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While this particular chapter in automotive history may be closing, it is worth reflecting on the intertwined relationship both vehicles shared, which at this point represents a bygone era.
Originally debuting for the 2003 model year, the first generation Mazda 6 arrived at a time when the Japanese automaker was part of the Ford Motor Company corporate umbrella, as The Blue Oval owned a controlling stake in the company from 1995 until 2008. That arrangement would prove extremely fruitful for both automakers, but particularly for Ford, which utilized Mazda platforms for several Ford sedans in the mid 2000s. The Ford CD3 platform, which was derived from the Mazda 6, saw use in the 2006 Ford Fusion, meaning both vehicles were closely related.
While the Mazda 6 might not what an automotive layman thinks of when envisioning Ford sedans, its connection to The Blue Oval was undeniable. It was produced at the Ford Flat Rock Assembly Plant, also known as AutoAlliance International for a spell, alongside the Ford Mustang, until that arrangement ended in 2012 and Ford assumed complete ownership and responsibility for the facility, which today only produces Ford’s famed pony car.
With finite resources and ever-increasing expenses, automakers are going to invest in products that have the most growth potential, and ones that the majority of consumers want to buy. Even after all the effort and investment that went into reviving the iconic Lincoln Continental, FoMoCo chose to discontinue it rather than dump money into a losing proposition.
In the end, if a company intends to survive, let alone grow, business decisions must follow the laws of supply and demand, and automakers are no exception. It that light, it makes perfect sense for the Mazda 6 to ride off into the sunset, especially given the Japanese automaker’s relatively small footprint.
We should also note that (currently-unconfirmed) rumors have suggested that the 6 will return at some point in the future as a premium or even luxury offering, complete with a rear-wheel-drive platform and a straight-six gasoline engine. But at that point, it will be a completely different vehicle playing in a very different space.