Mazda Southern Africa's new managing director says that the local arm of the Japanese automaker has "an opportunity" to re-introduce the Mazda6 to the South African market, although he admits the chances are slim.

The third-generation Mazda6 was discontinued in South Africa in 2016 after flagging sales (according to Lightstone Auto, just 10 units were registered in SA last year).

Mazda SA's Craig Roberts told CARmag.co.za that removing the Mazda6 from the local range wasn't an easy thing to do.

"The decision was a tough one from an emotional perspective. Mazda6 is actually seen as the brand flagship," Roberts told us.

"But the fact of the matter is that globally the medium-to-large sedan segment is rapidly declining, almost to the point that it really is only the major premium brands ," he added.

"Again, it's a really difficult space to gain a foothold in the South African market because of the brand strength that other players have there, particularly those manufacturing locally," Roberts said, again seemingly making reference to German automakers BMW and Mercedes-Benz.

However, he went on to reveal that the local arm would soon have the chance to reconsider its decision on the Mazda6.

"We do have an opportunity … there is a third and final 'facelift' for the Mazda6, before next-generation products are released in 2019, that we could bring to market and we're actually busy with focus groups and customer groups, as well as consulting with our dealers, and looking at the viability," he revealed.

But Roberts hinted that the move was unlikely.

"But, to be honest with you, the segment is a really, really tough one in South Africa, and we've seen other competitors withdraw like we did," Roberts concluded, making reference to likewise discontinued rivals such as the Kia Optima, Hyundai Sonata and Honda Accord.