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Old 02-04-2003, 06:00   #1 (permalink)
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Mazda sees U.S. sales rising 15% on new models

By Detroit News staff reports, Bloomberg News and wire services

HIROSHIMA, Japan -- Mazda Motor Corp., a third owned by Ford Motor Co., expects its U.S. sales to rise 15 percent to 300,000 units this year, helped by new model releases in the world's biggest auto market.

The figure will be boosted by the U.S. release of the Mazda6 sedan last December, and the coming release of the RX-8 sports car in the summer, company President Lewis Booth said.

"Reaching this target is by no means assured, but it is our challenge to grow" in a market the company expects to remain flat or shrink overall this year, he said.

Mazda is embarking on its second year of new model releases to expand its global customer base and improve profit after cutting costs and debt. The company is banking on the Mazda6 and RX-8 to revive sales in the U.S., where it was the only Japanese automaker to register a drop in 2002.

In China, one of the world's fastest-growing markets, Mazda plans to sell about 45,000 vehicles this year, nearly double 2002's total of about 23,000, Booth said. Last year's figure was double the 2001 total, he said.

Booth said Mazda, Japan's fourth-largest automaker, hopes to gain 3 percent of the Chinese market this year. The company began making the Mazda6 in China in January, and will start selling the model there this year.

Mazda is on target to meet its goal of increasing the number of its China dealerships to 85 from 48 "by the end of spring" this year, he said.
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