TOKYO -- Mazda Motor Corp. expects to sell 20,000 to 30,000 of the redesigned Mazda5 minivans in the United States annually when it reaches the market in January.
Mazda sold 18,488 Mazda5s in the United States last year, down 16 percent from 2008.
Thomas Pixton, Mazda's senior managing executive officer, said Thursday that the Mazda5's improved fuel economy and a more functional interior should boost sales.
“Minivans have gotten bad press in the U.S. lately,” Pixton said. “But we're getting a generation of stylish minivans with dynamics much closer to sedans.”
The new generation gets Mazda's smile-shaped grill and wave-inspired side styling.
The company has said the revamped Mazda5 will get up to 15 percent better mileage thanks to a direct-injection gasoline engine and the company's i-stop engine idle-stop technology.
It remains unclear whether the U.S. version will get the start-stop feature.
A reworked interior can be adapted to multiple seating arrangements for up to seven people in three rows. The second and third rows also can be converted into extra storage space.
The Japanese version starts at about ¥1.8 million or $20,300 at current exchange rates. A four-wheel-drive version will be released here in August.
China joint venture issues
Meanwhile, Mazda CEO Takashi Yamanouchi said Thursday that he wanted a joint venture in China in which the Japanese automaker would hold the maximum 50 percent allowed instead of the 15 percent it now owns in a three-way venture.
Mazda has said it is awaiting regulatory approval to restructure its current joint venture with Ford Motor Co. and Chongqing Changan Automobile but has declined to provide further details.
"Ideally, we would have a joint venture with a 50 percent stake," Yamanouchi told reporters. In May sources told Reuters that Ford and Mazda both wanted separate joint ventures with Changan, with each owning 50 percent.
Reuters contributed to this report