BEIJING -- Ford Motor Co. has begun assembling the Mazda3 sedan at its plant in Chongqing in southwest China, the company said Monday.
The mid-sized sedan will face stiff competition from models such as the Toyota Corolla, Buick Excelle, Hyundai Elantra and Honda Civic, which will start production this spring in China.
But the Mazda3 should do well, says Yale Zhang, director of Greater China vehicle forecasts for CSM Worldwide in Shanghai.
"Mazda has a good name in China because of the Familia sedan and the Mazda6," he says. "I don't worry about the Mazda3 at all."
The first Mazda3s will be in showrooms in late March, says Mazda spokesman Akira Shigemasa.
The Chongqing plant, where the Mazda3 is being built, is part of the Ford joint venture with Changan Automotive Group. This is the first Mazda model to be assembled in cooperation with Changan.
Mazda, Ford and Changan are building a second plant in the east China city of Nanjing.
Mazda already assembles the Familia, Mazda6 and Premacy minivan through a joint venture with First Auto Works Group.
Total Mazda brand sales in China in 2005 were 125,166 units, up 23.0 percent compared with 2004, according to Automotive Resources Asia, a consultancy in Shanghai. Mazda won 4.0 percent of China's 3.1 million car market in 2005.
The Mazda3 sedan shares a common platform with the Ford Focus and Volvo S40 sedan.
The Focus already is being assembled in Chongqing. The S40 will also be assembled there starting later this year, says Ashvin Chotai, director of Asian automotive industry research for Global Insight in London.
Global Insight forecasts production and sales of 7,000 Mazda3s in 2006 and 20,000 for 2007.
Says Chotai: "It depends on pricing. The average price should be around 125,000 yuan." That is about $15,550 at current exchange rates.
That would put it squarely in competition with the Ford Focus, which starts at the same price.
You may e-mail Alysha Webb at [email protected]