Mazda gives Ford a hand

Ford’s 21% sales decline in September understandably grabbed headlines yesterday, yet Mazda, one-third owned by the struggling U.S. automaker, is thriving. In September, its North American sales, at 25,908, the company’s best for the month since 1994 and 23% up on last year. Driving the surge was strong sales of the Mazda3, which until recently the company had been struggling to match demand. Now, having added capacity at Mazda’s Hofu plant, the company reckons it can shift 100,000 Mazda3s this year in North America.

There’s every reason to believe that the growth will continue into 2008. In Europe, Mazda has just begun selling its new Mazda2 subcompact (called Demio in Japan), starting with a UK launch where it can sell the same right-hand drive models it sells in Japan. The initial batch has already sold out. And the new Mazda6 will be released in November with a U.S. version, tailored to American tastes, expected to follow next summer.

No surprises, then, that former Ford execs based at Mazda HQ in Hiroshima are enjoying themselves. I spoke with Mazda senior managing executive officer Dan Morris on Monday evening. An upbeat Morris said he and his family, after some initial reservations, are thoroughly enjoying their time in western Japan. Given Ford’s woes, and Mazda on track for its best ever full year, a few more years at Mazda must look an attractive option.

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