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Luxury Car Planned For United States

February 6, 1986

CHICAGO (AP) _ Mazda Motor Corp. said Thursday it plans to import a luxury car to the United States within the next several years.

Mazda also announced the base price of the option-loaded, turbocharged version of its RX-7 sports car - $19,345. The basic RX-7 starts at $12,495.

By importing a luxury car, Mazda will be following the lead of Honda Motor Co. Ltd., which next year plans to enter the high-profit U.S. market that once belonged exclusively to Detroit and a few European companies.

Toyota Motor Corp., Japan’s leading automaker, and Nissan Motor Co. Ltd., the No. 2 company there, also have said they intend to enter the luxury market, although they have released few details of their plans.

Rod Hayden, a Mazda senior vice president based here, told a news conference the next generation of its 929 model, now sold only in Japan, will be exported to America.

Mazda next year is to begin building versions of its 626 compact car at an asembly plant under construction south of Detroit. That will free Mazda’s factories in Japan to build luxury cars for the U.S. market, Hayden said.

The output of the U.S. plant is planned at 240,000 cars annually with Ford Motor Co. getting 40 percent to 60 percent for sale as a new version of the Ford Mustang. The remainder go to Mazda dealers. Ford owns 25 percent of Mazda.

The Mazda plan assumes sales growth at a conservative rate. Japanese carmakers have been reluctant to make bullish forecasts in light of their country’s continued quotas on car shipments to the United States.

The fifth year of quotas expires March 31 and Hayden said Mazda has no idea whether they will be extended.

″I don’t think we’ll really know until the last two weeks of March what will really happen,″ Hayden said.

Hayden predicted Mazda car sales for 1986 at 230,000 compared with more than 211,093 last year.

The growth of the performance-car market, even at sticker prices much higher than those of a few years ago, has led Mazda to plan for 10,000 of its 55,000 RX-7s to be the top-of-the-line turbocharged models.

″We don’t think we’ll have any difficulty meeting these sales objectives,″ Hayden said.

Ford plans to import a Mazda-designed minicar from South Korea next year, but Hayden said Mazda has no plans to offer its dealers a similar car.

Mazda now considers its subcompact 323 model, once a basic economy car, as ″a little more upscale,″ Hayden said. That leaves the company vulnerable to South Korean and Yugoslavian imports at the cheapest end of the market, much like the Americans were vulnderable to the Japanese a decade ago.

However, Hayden said Mazda hsn’t decided whether it would provide its dealers with a minicar.

″We have no plans in the immediate future for ourselves,″ he said.

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