Mazda won't capitalize on Toyota recalls

TOKYO Mon Feb 22, 2010 6:39pm EST

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TOKYO (Reuters) - Mazda Motor Corp said it would not launch a special marketing campaign to draw customers away from Toyota Motor, shunning a strategy used by other car makers keen to capitalize on Toyota's recall woes.

Mazda Chief Financial Officer Kiyoshi Ozaki also told Reuters Television that it has not seen much of an impact on its sales from Toyota's global recall of more than 8 million vehicles.

The bulk of the recall has come in the United States, where Mazda holds a 2 percent market share.

"Our U.S. sales representatives have reported that some customers are taking a wait-and-see stance. But I don't expect a direct impact because our clients favor the unique features of our cars and are different from Toyota's clients," Ozaki said.

Ozaki said Mazda, Japan's fifth-largest car maker, would look to boost transparency internally about possible product defects and accelerate the company's response to problems.

"I think these are the two most important tasks, as there will never be zero possibility of a product defect," Ozaki said.

Mazda plans to have auditors and related divisions join management in the discussion of defect claims in an effort to address problems quickly, Ozaki said.

CHINA, FORD

Ozaki said there was no plan to change the terms of its joint venture agreement with Ford Motor and China's Chongqing Changan Automobile Co, but that "it would be nice" if Mazda could raise its stake in the future to give it more say over the operations.

Mazda and Ford, which holds an 11 percent stake in Mazda, denied last month a newspaper report that they intended to end the joint venture by 2012.

Chongqing Changan has a 50 percent stake in the three-way joint venture, with Ford holding 35 percent and Mazda 15 percent.

Ozaki did not deny the possibility of Mazda forming a capital tie-up with another carmaker but said there was no concrete plan.

Mazda's ties with Ford have weakened. Ford used to own one-third of Mazda before cutting its stake in 2008.

"I am aware of voices questioning whether Mazda can survive without Ford in the chaotic and uncertain market conditions in the wake of Lehman Brothers' failure. While it's true the market has collapsed, we continue to cooperate with Ford.

"On the other hand, it's also true that we have become freer in making management decisions. Mazda needs to make its own choices and decisions solidly, or we will not be able to survive, or there will be no future for our relation with Ford."

Shares of Mazda rose 3.1 percent to 230 yen, outperforming the Nikkei stock average, which gained 2.5 percent.

(Reporting by Yumiko Nishitani and Yoshifumi Takemoto)

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