Mazda is likely to fall short of sales target

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LOS ANGELES -- Mazda Motor Corp. is likely to fall short of its U.S. sales target for the fiscal year ending March 31 after posting its fourth-straight decline in monthly volume in February.

Mazda's U.S. sales slipped 2 percent to 24,341 vehicles in February.

Higher deliveries of the Mazda6 mid-sized sedan and CX-5 compact crossover last month failed to offset lower sales of all other Mazda models, including a 31 percent drop in volume of the recently redesigned Mazda3 compact car.

Mazda's U.S. sales through the first two months of 2014 are off 7 percent to 43,155 vehicles.

As Mazda enters the final month of its current fiscal year, it seems unlikely to hit its 290,000-unit U.S. sales forecast set in early February despite having cut the target by 10,000 units from its previous forecast set in October.

Mazda sold 248,817 cars in the 11 months since its current fiscal year began last April, leaving the brand with a 41,183-unit shortfall to make up this month. Mazda's U.S. sales have averaged about 22,620 units a month in its current fiscal year.

The falling sales cast a shadow on the most important market in Mazda's North American operation, which is poised to take on a greater role for the company globally. Last week, Mazda celebrated the grand opening of an assembly plant in Salamanca, Mexico.

The plant, Mazda's only source of vehicle production in North America and a key part of its long-term strategy, began building the Mazda3 in January. Mazda plans to ramp up production to 140,000 by midyear with much of that volume earmarked for the United States.

New or redesigned models such as the Mazda6 and CX-5 have posted strong sales gains lately, but the Mazda3 is off to a slow start since the redesigned car began trickling into U.S. showrooms last fall.

Mazda3 sales have declined 27 percent in the first two months of 2014 to 13,520 units despite an ad blitz that started in January.

Reduced fleet sales in the last calendar year masked Mazda's 16 percent annual gain in retail deliveries and limited its overall U.S. sales increase to 3 percent in 2013.

You can reach Ryan Beene at rbeene@crain.com. -- Follow Ryan on Twitter


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