DETROIT — Mazda's U.S. sales fell 10.7 percent last year, but the Japanese automaker still gained market share and expects to gain even more in 2009.
Last year, Mazda's share rose to 2.0 percent of the U.S. market from 1.8 percent in 2007.
"In a tough year, we grew our share," said Jim O'Sullivan, CEO of Mazda North American Operations, during an interview at the Detroit auto show. "The last time we had 2.0 was 1994."
The company's best-selling car, the Mazda3, has been redesigned and goes on sale in the first quarter. Its second-best seller, the Mazda6, was redesigned in early 2008.
O'Sullivan says its new lender, Chase Auto Finance, is providing its dealers with adequate credit for retail and lease sales.
"In this market, if you have new product and value, you will be on the radar screen," he said. "The majority of our customers can get financing. It will be a very tough first half, but I'm guardedly optimistic we can grow share with the Mazda 3."
The Mazda3 represented 41.7 percent of Mazda's total 2008 U.S. sales of 263,949. Robert Davis, Mazda's senior vice president of product development and quality, says Mazda can build share this year.
"We're going to focus on Mazda3, 6 and 5 and gain sales while the market is weak," Davis said. "If we do that, we can probably get another three-tenths percent of share between now and June, and that will be a great impact when the market rebounds."