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Old 08-25-2005, 06:42   #1 (permalink)
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Japan:Mazda rolls out all-new MX-5 in renewed brand push

Mazda rolls out all-new MX-5 in renewed brand push

Reuters
Photo from AutoWeek



TOKYO -- Mazda Motor Corp. launched on Thursday an all-new version of its iconic MX-5 sports coupe, in its first overhaul in seven years, as it aims to stay the course for product-led growth under a new, sporty brand image.

While global sales of the MX-5, called Roadster in Japan and Miata in the United States, are targeted at just 40,000 units a year, the lightweight two-seater has been crucial in raising Mazda's brand profile ever since it first ignited the cabriolet boom in 1989.

With cumulative sales exceeding 720,000 units, the MX-5 has been certified as the world's best-selling open-top two-seater sports car, and boasts 200 fan clubs around the globe.

Sale of the third-generation MX-5 began on Thursday in Japan starting at 2.2 million yen ($19,960), and will follow shortly in North America. The model, first previewed at the Geneva motor show in March, will be sold in Europe beginning in November.

After spending much of the 1990s in the red, Mazda has reconstructed itself through a fresh product offensive marketed under what it calls the "zoom-zoom" brand identity, starting with the Mazda6/Atenza in 2002.

The few cars launched thereafter have been generally well received, helping Mazda expand its profits for four straight years to a record high last year.

"The Roadster is the ultimate embodiment of our 'zoom-zoom' brand identity," President Hisakazu Imaki said at the launch, held at the national sumo wrestling stadium in Tokyo. "With this car, we aim to achieve the commitments we have made under our current medium-term business plan."

Under the plan, the Hiroshima-based carmaker wants to boost global sales to 1.25 million vehicles in the 12 months to March 2007, up 13 percent from last business year, and raise operating profit by 21 percent to 100 billion yen.

Mazda expects about 45 percent of total MX-5 sales, or about 18,000 units annually, to come from Europe.

In the United States, where the 2.0-liter MX-5 will compete with General Motors' Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky among others, it expects annual sales of about 16,000 units.

The Hiroshima-built MX-5 starts at $20,435 in the United States and is slightly cheaper than the previous version. It has already received gushing reviews, topping research site Edmunds.com's "Consumers' Most Wanted" list for convertibles under $25,000 to beat BMW's Mini Cooper, Volkswagen's New Beetle Cabriolet and others.

Mazda expects sales of the new model in Japan of around 4,300 units a year. Pre-sale orders, which began in mid-June, totaled 1,600 units, it said.

Mazda owns about half of Japan's 30,000-unit-strong sports car market through sales of the MX-5 and the rotary-engine-driven RX-8.
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