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Old 05-27-2003, 07:04   #1 (permalink)
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Mazda to end luxury car production, Nikkei says

Tuesday, May 27, 2003

By Tomomi Sekioka and Lindsay Whipp / Bloomberg News

Mazda Motor Corp. will stop making its Millennia sedan by the end of this year, pulling out of the luxury car market as it focuses on small and mid-sized vehicles and sports cars, the Nihon Keizai newspaper reported.

Mazda, a third owned by Ford Motor Co., will halt Millennia sales next year, the paper said, without citing anyone. Company spokesman Katsumi Yoshitake declined to comment on the report, saying Mazda doesn't talk about plans for its model line-up.

Japan's fifth-largest automaker has been slimming down its product lineup, developing small and mid-sized cars such as the Demio compact and Atenza sedan, to raise profitability at home. Some investors have said the company needs to focus on niche products as it's not big enough to compete directly with rivals such as Toyota Motor Corp. and Nissan Motor Co.

"They're pulling out of the most unprofitable operation," said Yasuo Kamaji, who helps manage the equivalent of $2.6 billion in Japanese equities at Sumitomo Mitsui Asset Management Co., including shares of Toyota, Nissan and other automakers. "They're doing this because they have no choice" if the company wants to increase profitability, he said.

Mazda sold 48 Millennia sedans in Japan last month, a 67 percent drop from a year earlier.

The Hiroshima, Japan-based automaker forecasts net income will rise by a quarter to 30 billion yen ($256 million) in the year started April 1, helped by including a full year of Atenza and Demio sales and the release of the new RX-8 sports car.
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