HIROSHIMA, Japan — CEO Akira Marumoto is steering Mazda Motor Corp. through a delicate shift from being a relatively small mass-market player to a purveyor of something more upmarket. He has been clamping down on incentives, rolling out ever-better product and technology and slowly raising the sticker prices that Mazdas can command.
Volume and profits have been slower in coming. U.S. sales slumped 8.2 percent through November in an overall market estimated to be down 1.4 percent.
Marumoto, 62, speaking through an interpreter, talked at the company's headquarters here with Asia Editor Hans Greimel about Mazda's U.S. retail remake, upcoming technology and plans for a new large-vehicle platform. Here are edited excerpts.
Q: What is Mazda's outlook for the overall U.S. market this year and next?
A: For this year, it looks like the industry is likely to be 17 million units, and next year, it seems like it will go down slightly. But there are actually a variety of opinions on that. Some people think it's even going to enter into recession. Others think it will maybe even pick up a little.
Given our share in the U.S. — less than 2 percent — we should focus on our own performance rather than the industry. We have to think about growing our share. But there are some things we just have to understand. The passenger-vehicle segment is coming down very substantially. Meanwhile, segments in which Mazda has no entries, such as pickup trucks or large SUVs, are actually showing good growth.
What is Mazda's outlook for its own U.S. sales this year and next?
Although we revised down our full-year forecast from the initial forecast, our plan is to still post a year-on-year increase for the fiscal year [ending March 31]. We are expecting to have an increase in the fourth quarter, thanks to the CX-30.
For the following fiscal year, we expect to get the full-year effect of CX-30 sales. And we also will have more varieties of powertrains on our products. Through these factors, we expect another year-on-year increase.