LONDON - Mazda Motor Corp. has slashed the number of Tribute sport-utilities it planned to bring to Europe by as much as 75 percent to meet booming demand for the vehicle in North America.
The new sport-utility and its platform mate, the Ford Escape, is so popular in North America that Mazda can't build enough to meet demand there, said Jan Brentebraten, president of Mazda Motor Europe.
Hence, the company will import only about 5,000 units this year, down from an original plan of 15,000 to 20,000 units.
'It's not something we're happy with,' Brentebraten said.
To limit demand it cannot meet, Mazda will offer only the V-6 version in Europe instead of the more popular 2.0-liter, four-cylinder model, Brentebraten said.
He said about 1,000 four-cylinder Tributes ordered by European customers would be delivered, but that no further four-cylinder models will be imported.
In contrast, Ford dealers in Europe will get both four- and six-cylinder versions of the Escape, which is sold in Europe as the Maverick.
The decision has angered and puzzled many Mazda dealers.
The company's sales across Europe are off by more than a third this year, and dealers had been looking forward to getting a hot seller such as the Tribute.
'Five thousand cars is a ridiculous number when you consider the expense of marketing, spare parts and distribution,' said one dealer.
'With only a six-cylinder engine available, you're not even covering the segment. There is no market for the V-6 in Europe.'
Mazda said shipments of four-cylinder Tributes to Europe likely will resume in 2003, when the supply shortage is expected to ease. Mazda also plans a diesel version.