Speculation is running high in Japan that two models built in the United States, Subaru's Tribeca SUV and Mazda's Mazda6, will be axed so the companies can use U.S. capacity better -- or, in Mazda's case, perhaps move south to Mexico.
The Nikkan Kogyo business daily said Subaru will stop r&d on the next-generation Tribeca, a low-selling model that's taking up valuable space at its Lafayette, Ind., plant. Subaru sold just 910 Tribecas through April, and it's hungry for more capacity to build the popular Outback and Legacy.
Nikkan Kogyo says Mazda plans to stop making the slow-selling Mazda6 at the Flat Rock, Mich., plant it operates with Ford. And that could lead Mazda to pull out of the joint venture, the paper said.
Mazda spokesman Jeremy Barnes denied the Mazda6 is doomed, saying: "The Mazda6 will continue to exist -- no ifs, and or buts." But he wouldn't comment on production plans for Flat Rock.
The Mazda6 is a big reason Mazda can't make money in North America. Mazda planned 100,000 units annually in Flat Rock when the redesigned sedan was launched in mid-2008. Last year's total: 45,168.
Mazda could put another vehicle there. But speculation abounds in Japan that Mazda is eyeing a low-cost North American production base in Mexico.