HIROSHIMA, Japan — Four years ago, CEO Masamichi Kogai predicted Mazda would be notching annual U.S. sales of 400,000 vehicles by now. Instead, it is in a second-straight year of decline, with volume under 300,000 and market share retreating from an erstwhile goal of 2 percent.
Now Kogai says the U.S. resurgence will start in earnest in 2019 and kick into overdrive in 2021 when Mazda adds an all-new crossover designed for and built exclusively in the U.S.
Giving first details of the new nameplate in a Nov. 16 interview, Kogai said it has potential to be the brand's best-seller. He said it would slot into Mazda's three-vehicle crossover lineup without cannibalizing the CX-3, CX-5 and CX-9.
The vehicle will be produced starting in 2021 at the plant Mazda and Toyota plan to jointly build in the U.S.
Mazda will initially dedicate its entire capacity of 150,000 units there to the vehicle. For comparison, Mazda's best-selling nameplate, the CX-5, managed just 112,235 units in 2016.
"We have big expectations," Kogai said of the new utility entry. "This is our declaration that we are going to grow our business in the U.S."
Arriving in 2021, Mazda's new SUV is decidedly long term. But Kogai hopes for a hit by developing something uniquely tailored to U.S. needs.
"We are actually going to introduce a totally new and different type of SUV," he said. "R&D is coordinating with our North American operations on that right now."