DETROIT -- Mazda Motor Corp. aims to emphasize diesel drivetrains over hybrids as part of a plan to help it stand out from rivals.
"We think it's a good differentiator," Jim O'Sullivan, CEO of Mazda North American Operations, said on the sidelines of the Detroit auto show. It will give Mazda a reputation, he said, that "Those guys are always doing something a little different."
Mazda plans to introduce its Skyactiv D diesel engine as an option on U.S. vehicles as early as 2014. O'Sullivan declined to say what model would get the engine, but it is widely expected to go in the CX-5 small crossover. The gasoline-engine CX-5 hits showrooms in March.
The redesigned Mazda6 mid-sized sedan, due as early as the end of this year, also is likely to be offered with a diesel, at least in some markets.
Mazda also is planning to offer a hybrid vehicle that uses gasoline-electric drivetrain technology developed by Toyota Motor Corp. That car is due in Japan in 2013, but Mazda has yet to commit to a U.S. launch date.
O'Sullivan says Mazda is encouraged by Volkswagen AG's success with diesel in North America.
"Volkswagen, I honestly believe, gets incremental business above and beyond other brands because they do have a diesel, and they buy Volkswagens only because they do have it," he said.
O'Sullivan said Mazda can reap "significant" incremental sales increases by offering diesel variants on some high-volume models. "I don't think it's big double digits," he said.
Meanwhile, Mazda expects customers to shift toward gasoline Skyactiv options in the Mazda3, which has had a Skyactiv variant since last fall. About one-third of Mazda3 buyers choose the Skyactiv now. That could climb to two-thirds within a year, O'Sullivan said. The Skyactiv option is available in all trim levels of the Mazda3.
O'Sullivan said deliveries of the CX-5 will begin in February, followed by a formal launch in March.
This year's launch of the CX-5 -- the first vehicle to feature Mazda's full array of fuel-saving Skyactiv technologies -- could help Mazda expand U.S. sales by up to 10 percent this year as it aims to lift its market share to 2.5 percent in the next two years, up from 2.0 percent in 2011.
In 2012, O'Sullivan said, "We'll be growing at least as much as the industry, maybe even more." He predicted that the total U.S. light-vehicle market should expand to at least 13.5 million units, up from 12.8 million in 2011.
Mazda targets U.S. sales of 400,000 units by 2014 to win a 2.5 percent market share in a 14 million-unit market. The company ended 2011 with sales up 9 percent to 250,426 units, trailing the market's 10 percent gain.