CHICAGO -- Mazda will keep its newly opened North American factory flexible in its mix of Mazda3 and Mazda2 models.
The new plant in Salamanca, Mexico, began producing the Mazda3 in January and is building up inventory. Dealers will begin receiving the cars at the end of this month, says Jim O'Sullivan, CEO of Mazda North American Operations.
But O'Sullivan said the mix between the Mazda3 and the smaller five-door Mazda2, which launches in Salamanca later this year, will be dictated by market demand.
"Because the plant is flexible, if we need to build 100 percent Mazda3s, we'll do it," O'Sullivan said at the Chicago Auto Show. "The split between 2s and 3s will depend on global demand. We'll be supplying Canada, Mexico, Central and South America, and also whatever Europe decides they want to source from us in Mexico."
At full capacity, the factory will be able to produce about 260,000 vehicles a year once a second work shift is added. But approximately 50,000 of those have been promised for a Toyota vehicle that Mazda will begin building in 2016.
The plant will also have flexibility in engine production, building the 2.0-liter and 2.5-liter engines for the two cars. Engine plans are not set in stone, O'Sullivan says. The European market versions of the vehicles use small displacement engines, and Salamanca might source 1.8-liter engines from Japan to supply Europe.
O'Sullivan says the new Mexico plant is important to Mazda's U.S. sales target. The automaker hopes to grow from expected sales volume of about 290,000 in the fiscal year that ends March 31 to about 400,000 sales for the year ending March 31, 2016.
Salamanca will deliver only part of that 100,000-plus sales increase over the next 25 months, he says: "A lot of it will come from other new product initiatives over the next year or two."