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Old 04-25-2003, 21:16   #1 (permalink)
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Mazda Reports Surge in Profits

Automobile Magazine
Associated Press - April 24, 2003

TOKYO - Mazda Motor Corp. said Friday its profits more than doubled in the fiscal year just ended compared to a year ago, affirming a turnaround that remains on track under an alliance with partner Ford Motor Co.

Profits at Japan's fifth-biggest automaker for the fiscal year ended March 31 totaled 24.1 billion yen ($201 million), up from 8.8 billion yen in fiscal 2001.

Sales totaled 2.36 trillion yen ($19.7 billion), up 13 percent from 2.09 trillion yen, backed by strong sales in Europe and Japan, according to preliminary figures. The company files final earnings May 12.

"The response to our new products has been tremendous," chief executive Lewis Booth said in a statement. "While we still must improve in North America, our results in Europe, Japan and other markets are very encouraging."

After a lull in new models, Mazda came out with relatively successful collection over the past year, including the Atenza, sold as the Mazda6 in the United States, and the Demio subcompact, sold as the Mazda2 in Europe.

The United States, where the Mazda6 came out late last year, was the only key region where vehicle sales dropped - 258,000 in fiscal 2002, down 4.2 percent from the previous year.

Sales inched up 0.6 percent in Japan to 270,000 vehicles and soared nearly 11 percent in Europe to 182,000 vehicles.

Mazda's business has had its ups and downs after Ford raised its stake in the manufacturer to 33.4 percent in 1996.

Mazda, based in Hiroshima, Japan, has had to slowly trim its aging work force, reshape its model lineup to take advantage of cost savings with Ford cars and streamline its bloated dealership networks.

In the current fiscal year, Mazda will start selling the Mazda RX-8 sportscar, equipped with Mazda's trademark rotary engine, as well as a yet unnamed model.

Mazda said the slight decline in fiscal 2002 profit compared to a projection it gave last year was because of tax changes and that the results were among the company's best in the recent decade.

For fiscal 2003, Mazda is forecasting a profit of 30 billion yen ($250 million), up 24 percent, on 2.42 trillion yen ($20 billion) sales, up 2 percent.

Mazda said sales for the whole industry will likely decline this fiscal year in Japan, the United States and Europe.

But it is counting on growth in all regions, hoping to sell 290,000 vehicles in Japan, up 7 percent from fiscal 2002, and 280,000 vehicles in the United States, up 8 percent.

Mazda hopes to rev up sales in Europe by 21 percent to 220,000 vehicles for the fiscal year ending in March 2004.
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