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Japan:Mazda Targets US Sales Revival, Higher Market Share in Europe, Japan

Automobile Magazine

AFX News Limited

TOKYO (AFX) - Mazda Motor Corp wants to revive sales in the US, boost market share in Japan and in Europe, and double its dealership network in China, senior managing executive of marketing and sales Stephen Odell said.

Odell said a range of new or revamped models, such as the Mazda 6 series and RX8 sports car, will drive the company forward.

"Our focus has got to be getting the correct level of business in the United States... actually getting share growth in Japan... and a combination of growing business in China whilst continuing business in Europe at a steady rate," Odell told a group of foreign reporters.

"We are supposed to sell around 280,000 cars in the US (this year) and I think we will get pretty close to it so long as the industry holds its nerve," he said.

But the US market "is very fragile because it has one eye on the economy and the other on some terrorist action that may or may not happen," he warned.

"I think we overestimated how quickly we could break into that market."

Mazda, 33.3 pct owned by Ford Motor Co, enjoyed a 34 pct jump in European sales during the first six months of 2003 compared with a year earlier, largely due to sales of the Mazda 6 sedan, station wagon and five-door model, which were launched last year.

Odell said the European and US launch later this month or early in August of Mazda's RX8 sports car -- which was rolled out in Japan earlier this year -- will further fuel sales in the two markets.

"Our (sales) expectations in North America is upwards of 25,000 RX8s a year and that is a fairly large number," he said.

Mazda sold almost 50,000 vehicles in China last year -- double the previous year's volume.

"We may not be able to continue on that geometric path but there is clearly opportunity to sell a substantial number of cars in China," declared Odell.

Mazda, which has forged partnerships in China with several local firms, has yet to build an assembly plant in the country.

Odell said: "We have to figure when is the appropriate time and what is the appropriate figure of investment."

The automaker also expects to strengthen its distribution network in China.

"We have already got 90 dealerships in China... and in the next couple of years we will stretch that distribution network close to double."

Copyright 2003 AFX News Limited. All Rights Reserved.

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