TOKYO - In an attempt to focus its marketing in Japan, Ford Japan Ltd. will phase out the sale of rebadged Mazdas as Ford models, Ford Japan Chairman Henry Wallace said.
That decision will affect models that make up about 70 percent of Ford Japan's sales volume. It is one of several decisions made after a review of Ford's positioning in Japan.
In addition, by 2003, Ford Japan plans to target customers in the 25-to-28 age range with a limited line of seven or eight vehicles. The company also will cut 30 percent of its employees by year end.
A Ford Japan spokesman also confirmed that the company may consolidate the back-office operations of Ford Japan, Jaguar Japan and Volvo Cars Japan.
'To survive and thrive in Japan, you need a clear identity,' Wallace said. Mazda's products are 'good cars, trucks and MPVs, but they don't have the traits that will appeal to Ford's target audience,' he said.
'Ford and Mazda are distinct brands in the Ford portfolio, and they will occupy distinct roles,' he said.
That does not mean all the Fords sold in Japan will be imports.
Ford Motor Co. and Mazda Motor Corp. have developed a small sport-utility. Next year, Ford's Kansas City, Mo., plant will build the left-hand-drive model, and Mazda's Hofu plant No. 2 will build the right-hand-drive model.
Ford Japan will sell a version of the model built at Hofu No. 2, but it will have distinctive sheet metal rather than simply a different badge, Wallace said.
Ford's Explorer, Mustang, Mondeo and Focus will remain in Ford Japan's lineup, Wallace said. He did not mention the Ford Ka.
Dropping other Mazda-built models will cut Ford Japan's sales, at least in the short term. Through August, Ford Japan sold 3,779 imports and 9,138 Mazda-built vehicles.
'Numerical sales targets are not our first priority,' Wallace said. He said he expects Ford Japan's sales to be 25,000 to 30,000 initially. The number of dealers may decline.
Last year, Ford Japan sold 21,883 Ford-badged cars, including imports and Mazda-built vehicles. Add in Jaguar and Aston Martin, and the total was 23,964. The Automotive News Europe 1999 Global Market Data Book reported that Volvo, which was not a part of Ford at the time, sold another 16,306 passenger cars in 1998.