TOKYO -- Mazda Motor Corp. aims to reach a decision with partner Ford Motor Co. by midyear on how to overhaul operations at their underused jointly operated assembly plant in Flat Rock, Mich.
Mazda is studying various options for the suburban Detroit plant, including building a different model there. Asked if Mazda might pull out of the venture, Mazda CFO Kiyoshi Ozaki said through a translator: "Never say never."
The Japanese company now produces the Mazda6 sedan at Flat Rock and Ford builds the Mustang. Ozaki said there is not enough commonality between the models to generate cost savings. "There are no synergies there," he said.
Mazda and Ford are discussing ways to increase output at the plant, which is operating at about half its capacity because of disappointing demand for the Mazda6.
Mazda planned to produce 100,000 units of the Mazda6 annually when the redesigned sedan was launched at Flat Rock in mid-2008. Then the financial crisis hit. Last year the plant built only 45,168 units of the Mazda6 and 77,586 Mustangs. The factory is one reason Mazda's U.S. operations are operating at a loss, Ozaki said.
He declined to detail other alternatives being considered for Flat Rock, which is Mazda's only U.S. plant. But he discounted the possibility of using it as an export hub unless the yen continued its appreciation against the dollar.