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Old 02-03-2003, 07:26   #1 (permalink)
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Mazda wants to sustain 6 launch, plans increased marketing, lease support

By MARK RECHTIN | Automotive News

Mazda will increase marketing and lease support for its Mazda6 sedan in the spring, as the company tries to make inroads in a segment dominated by the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry.

Dealers were told about the plans yesterday at the Mazda make meeting.

The new sedan, when combined with the new RX-8 sports car coming this summer, is expected to boost Mazda sales from 258,213 in 2002 to about 300,000 this year, said Charlie Hughes, president of Mazda North American Operations.

Most of the gain will be on the retail side. While the outgoing 626 and Millenia accounted for 58,755 sales last year, only 37,000 were retail. Mazda is slashing the fleet presence of the Mazda6 by comparison. Wagon and five-door hatchback versions of the Mazda6 are due later in the year.

Mazda wants to sell about 100,000 units annually.

The Mazda6 went on sale in December with heavy advertising support.

The automaker plans another round of advertising in March and April, as part of a sustained launch of the car.

Mazda will put a subvented lease plan on the car - even though Mazda has weaker residual values than the Camry and Accord and has to work financing through Ford Motor Credit Co.

"There is no money factor help or anything from Mazda America Credit," said dealer council chair Karl Schmidt, dealer principal of Morrie's Mazda in Minnetonka, Minn.

Mazda should just give lease cash to dealers, Schmidt said, "and let us find the best rate on the open market."
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