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Fields says Mazda has Ford's backing for UK plans

Mazda president Mark Fields has insisted the company will continue to work towards the goals of its 'turnaround' strategy, the so-called Millennium Plan, with the backing of parent company Fords' new management team.

Speaking at a media briefing in London recently, Mr Fields said there was no truth in rumours that the recent senior team changes at Ford, which saw the ousting of Jacques Nasser as chief executive officer, and the financial gloom pervading the company, had raised doubts about the carmaker's commitment to Mazda.

Mr Fields said: “There has been some questions on whether the issues affecting Ford at the moment would impact on the Mazda strategy. The answer is an emphatic no. Our strategy is very sound. We've shared it with Ford and its new management team is very supportive.”

Mr Fields was positive about Mazda's standing in the UK, saying its image was close to the 'corporate image' he envisaged for the company.

He also said he had a lot of confidence in the dealer network, despite this year's slump in sales. “I met a couple of them at a brand day in Tokyo and gave them a 'hands on' exposure to the new product. They are very excited about where we are heading.”

Mazda is to launch a television ad campaign in the new year, together with press, radio and cimena exposure, loosely titled the 'zoom-zoom campaign' aimed at increasing brand awareness.

James Muir, Mazda Cars UK managing director, who was also at the media briefing, said that while there was the right number of dealers in the UK to meet the expected demand for cars resulting from the media campaign, they are “not all in the right place or the right people”.

“If you look at the old dealer map (inherited from MCL when Mazda took over vehicle distribution earlier this year) we inherited 222 territories. Of those 85% wouldn't support 100 new vehicle sales a year on a 1% market share. It's not surprising there were 98 open points,” Mr Muir said.

“It means the map was wrong. The business offering we had did not appeal to entrepreneurs. We are redrawing the map to attract new partners to Mazda to support our growth plans.”

Mr Muir said he wanted Mazda's dealers to have larger market areas “offering greater volume aspirations to deliver a more significant return in absolute terms, rather than percentage terms”.

Mazda is aiming to turn around its ailing sales performance with a new range of models and engines that will see it achieve 40,000 registrations a year by 2005. To the end of October this year, Mazda had registered 11,091 new cars, 39.6% down year-on-year.

  • The Millennium Plan is a five-year business strategy announced in 2000 the core elements of which are growth fuelled by revenue, new products (spending 30% more on products in five years), including the new Demio and Mazda 6; improving sales and marketing through taking greater control of distribution. In Europe Mazda has already exceeded its target of taking control of at least 70% of volume in Europe by the end of 2001. A production plant in Japan has been closed reducing capacity by 25% and an early retirement plan ended in March having cut the salaried workforce by 20%.
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