Mazda Motor of America controls the US research and development, sales and marketing, distribution, parts, and customer service operations of Japan-based Mazda Motor Corporation. The company sells or leases its line of cars, trucks, minivans, and SUVs through hundreds of dealerships in the US. Mazda Motor of America was formed to strengthen its parent company's hold on the US car market. It, along with sister companies Mazda Canada and Mazda Motor de Mexico, form Mazda North American Operations, which represents approximately 27% of its parent company's revenues.
North America is Mazda's next largest geographic segment by sales, after Japan. Mazda has relied on its product lineup for growth, and has invested a great deal in technology and styling, in order to meet the specific regional needs and requirements of its customers. Mazda's North American market must like what it sees, because sales increased 10% in 2010, outperforming Japan and Europe, which actually saw declines in their respective revenues. Customers in North America took a shine to the CX-7 and CX-9 crossover models; both are popular models in the US, along with the Mazda3 and Mazda6. The compact Mazda2 was launched to customers in the US and Canada in 2010, along with the Mazda5 minivan that is equipped with i-stop, a feature that automatically shuts down the engine when the vehicle is stationary.
Mazda is paying a lot of attention to new technology. First it was the rotary engine, and now it is the SKYACTIV brand of high efficiency technology. Mazda is redesigning its entire powertrain platform lineup, including engines, transmissions, bodies, and chassis, with the goal of reducing emissions 30% by 2015. The SKYACTIV-G direct-injection slim gasoline engine already boasts a 30% increase in fuel efficiency, without the use of an electric motor; the SKYACTIV-D is the next generation diesel engine; and SKYACTIV-Drive transmissions offer 6 speeds. The technology, introduced to the North American market in 2011, is being equipped on the very popular Mazda3, which represents one out of every three Mazda's sold.
The car company has tailored some of its models to fit the North American audience, hoping to win over a new younger market. It launched the Mazda3 sports compact, as well as four- and five-door styles, and two fuel-efficient engine options. The Mazda6 was made with a larger interior and exterior size and more powerful engines than Mazda6s sold elsewhere in the world. Record sales have been reported for both the Mazda3 and Mazda6 among North American customers.
Customers were scarce during the economic crisis. The company implemented cost cutting measures, with Mazda North America reducing its workforce in 2009 by 14%. Jobs affected were in the sales & marketing, and R&D departments at its headquarters and throughout its five regional offices. With the worst of the recession over, the customers are returning. But even as global economic markets shows signs of recovery, Mazda Motor of America is still bracing for continued decreases in the region's sales. Ditto for its parent, which reported it has no plans to build a new plant in North America, opting instead to step up production in Asia by building a factory in Thailand.
Mazda keeps its brand familiar to audiences in North America through different media and event campaigns. The TV package for the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) Pro Racing Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup (sponsored by Playboy magazine) began in 2008. Mazda believes grassroots racing brings the Mazda brand closer to its customers and that the company's bottom line also benefits. Mazda expects to increase the sales of its MazdaSpeed-branded parts and accessories to racing teams to almost $8 million.
Prior to 2008 Ford Motor Company held a stake of about 33% in Mazda Motor. Mazda and its business partners acquired about 20% of those holdings, reducing Ford's interest to a little over 13%. In 2011 Ford reduced its stake to 3.5%. Ford agreed to the deals in order to raise much needed capital (about $540 million) to pay off debt, not because it was dissatisfied with its relationship with Mazda. The two companies will continue their strategic 30-year relationship, along with ongoing joint ventures, including developing platforms, powertrains, and hybrid technology.