Bloomberg News

Mazda CEO Yamanouchi Keeps Global Sales Goal, Less Upbeat on U.S

November 18, 2011

Nov. 17 (Bloomberg) -- Mazda Motor Corp. may not meet its goal of almost doubling U.S. sales by the middle of this decade owing to a slower-than-expected economic recovery and continued yen strength, Chief Executive Officer Takashi Yamanouchi said.

Mazda had hoped to boost U.S. sales to about 400,000 units by 2016 as part of a strategy to sell 1.7 million autos worldwide in the same period, Yamanouchi said in an interview at the Los Angeles Auto Show yesterday. The U.S. portion now looks less certain, he said.

“The yen appreciation occurred along with the slowing of the U.S. economy, so we’re thinking of reviewing that forecast,” Yamanouchi said. While Hiroshima-based Mazda still aims to reach its global volume goal, “the regional mix may change a bit,” with increased sales in China, Southeast Asia and Mexico, he said.

Mazda, along with other Japanese automakers including Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co., is struggling to stay competitive in the U.S. as the yen’s gain against the dollar makes Japan-built autos less profitable to export. That has increased pressure on Japan’s carmakers to cut production costs by using parts made overseas, as well as shift more production abroad.

Mazda’s U.S. sales rose 8.7 percent this year through October to 209,641 units. The carmaker expects sales in North America to climb 10 percent from a year earlier to 376,000 units in the 12 months ending March, according to its earnings forecast given on Nov. 2.

Currency Pressure

The yen has gained 5.6 percent this year against the dollar, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The currency’s value relative to the dollar and the euro has risen about 30 percent since late 2008, Yamanouchi said. For that reason, Mazda this year announced plans to build a small car plant in Mexico, he said.

The combination of currency pressure and production problems after Japan’s earthquake and tsunami cut supplies of some components and has made 2011 the toughest year ever for its automakers, Yamanouchi said.

“If we can get through all these issues, we’ll come out much stronger,” he said.

Yamanouchi was in Los Angeles for the North American debut of Mazda’s CX-5 compact utility vehicle, its first for the U.S. using its so-called Skyactiv engine and transmission and frame design. This combination of features has resulted in a vehicle with better fuel economy and driving performance, while also reducing production costs by about 20 percent, the CEO said.

Mazda’s U.S. headquarters are in Irvine, California.

--Editors: Garry Smith, Lena Lee

To contact the reporter on this story: Alan Ohnsman in Los Angeles at aohnsman@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jamie Butters at jbutters@bloomberg.net


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