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Mazda predicts higher share in U.S.

TOKYO - Mazda Motor Corp. expects to capture a 1.6 percent share of the U.S. market this year, 0.1 percentage point above 2000 but 0.1 point below what Mazda forecast in May, Mazda's senior American executive says.

In the first half, Mazda's U.S. market share was 1.7 percent, 0.2 point above the year-earlier period.

Steve Odell, COO of Mazda North American Operations, also said dealers who participate in the company's "Elite" program, which rewards high customer-satisfaction scores and good facilities, have raised their profitability.

Program participants have posted an average 1.4 percent return on sales, double their average 0.7 percent return on sales eight months ago, he said.

In Europe, Mazda is on track to control more than 70 percent of its sales volume through company-owned distribution channels by year end, said Jan Brentebraten, president of Mazda Motor Europe.

The two Mazda executives spoke at a meeting in Tokyo with media based in Japan.

Brentebraten said Mazda completed the purchase of its U.K. distributor Aug. 1 and is negotiating to buy its Austrian distributor, which controls distribution in Austria, Hungary, Bulgaria, Bosnia, Slovakia and Macedonia.

It also is negotiating the purchase of another distributor, which Brentebraten declined to name, and hopes to announce that purchase within two to three weeks.

Mazda has acquired its distributors in Italy, Spain, France, Russia and now the United Kingdom, since 2000.

You can reach James B. Treece at jtreece@crain.com

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