Mazda sees sales up in rising market in 2010

DETROIT (Reuters) - Mazda Motor Corp 7261.T expects its sales to rise in line or slightly better than the overall U.S. industry as it launches its Mazda 2 small car later this year, a top executive said on Tuesday.

Mazda North American chief Jim O’Sullivan said the Japanese automaker expects U.S. industry sales to rise to about 11.5 million units from last year’s total of 10.4 million. He called the mood of the industry “guardedly optimistic.”

"There we were a year ago and things were just absolutely in this abyss of not knowing what was going to happen," he said at the Detroit auto show, referring to the bankruptcies of General Motors GM.UL and Chrysler, the new Obama administration and the collapse of Lehman Brothers. "It was just chaotic here last year.

“This year, the people that are here and the brands that are here felt like they made the cut,” he added. “There’s a lot more focus on not ‘where in the hell is this thing going to end up, where’s the bottom at?’ But there’s this optimism that what was seen in the last several months, the economy is starting to improve a little bit.”

With the Mazda 2 launching in late summer, O’Sullivan expects Mazda’s sales could rise slightly better than the industry. He pointed to December, when the company’s overall sales were up about 2 percent but retail sales rose 20 percent, as a sign of Mazda’s momentum.

“If we’re going to go to an 11-1/2 million (unit) industry, we’ll ride that tide with it at a minimum,” he said. “We anticipate probably a little bit further uptick than that on top of what the industry increase will be for the year.”

Reporting by Ben Klayman, editing by Matthew Lewis