Mazda North American chief ousted over low sales
By Mark Truby / The Detroit News
DETROIT -- Mazda North American Operations President and CEO Charlie Hughes said he was fired from the Ford Motor Co.-controlled automaker because of disappointing sales.
Mazda Motor Corp. president Lewis Booth -- in an e-mail to employees Thursday -- announced Hughes' departure without elaborating.
Hughes departure struck many as sudden, in part because no permanent replacement was named. Former Ford of Europe executive John Mandel was named acting president.
"I was terminated by Ford this week primarily because they were disappointed with sales," Hughes told The Detroit News in an interview. He declined to be more specific.
Mazda sold 258,213 vehicles last year, down 4.2 percent since 2001. The elimination of Mazda's Millenia and 626 sedans accounted for some of the decline. Also, the new Mazda6 mid-size car that hit showrooms late last year got off to a slow start.
Mazda spokesman Jeremy Barnes declined to discuss why Hughes left the company, but said sales last year were disappointing.
"Any time your sales are down, you are not happy with that," Barnes said. "If last year had gone well, indeed we would have grown sales."
Though he didn't blame Hughes, Barnes said that the initial sales launch of the Mazda6 could have been more successful had the company better predicted customer preferences. Barnes said advertising played up the six-cylinder version of the sedan loaded with options like leather seats. Mazda, however, was building a high number of four-cylinder Mazda6 sedans.
"People were coming to dealerships looking for the well-equipped V-6," Barnes said.
Hughes came out of retirement in October 2000 to lead Mazda North American. He retired from Land Rover North America in June 1999.
Despite his firing, Hughes said he sees a bright future for Mazda in the United States, which is planning to launch a number of new vehicles in the United States.
"Mazda's team is strong and they are entering a product renaissance," Hughes said.
My first car was a 67 Mustang Coupe, 2nd one was a 67 Cougar XR-7, 3rd one was a 66 Mustang Coupe. Why did I get rid of these cars for ? I know why, because I'm stupid, stupid, stupid.
My next Ford.....