Mazda has built mid-size sedans at their Flat Rock, Michigan, plant since 1987. In 1992, the plant became a joint venture between Ford and Mazda called AutoAlliance International, but the relationship between the automakers has since fallen on hard times. Rumors about Mazda selling their stake in the joint venture have been circulating for weeks, spurred by comments that low production volumes of the Mazda6 at AAI have impacted Mazda’s earnings. Despite a capacity of 120,000 cars per year, Mazda is only building 45,000 Mazda6 sedans annually at AAI. Throw in a strong Japanese yen, and it’s clear that changes need to be made.
Mazda’s Takashi Yamanouchi, Representative Director and Chairman of the Board, President and CEO of Mazda Motor Corporation, has clarified what those changes will be. Beginning with the next Mazda mid-size sedan, production will shift from three plants to one. Unlike the Mazda6, which is built at AAI for North America, but also built at Hofu, Japan and Changchun, Jilin province, China for other markets, the successor to the Mazda6 will be built only in Hofu, Japan.
That begs the question of what happens to the AAI facility, but Mazda isn’t yielding details on that just yet. Instead, Mr. Yamanouchi reiterated his company’s partnership with Ford, saying, “The decision to relocate to Hofu and consolidate the production of the next CD (midsize) car makes the most sense for our business. However, we are committed to working with Ford, our joint venture partner in AAI, to identify future opportunities for the plant. Mazda and Ford have enjoyed a close relationship for over 30 years. We have collaborated on projects where there are mutual benefits, and both companies remain committed to continuing this strategic partnership.”
There may be hope for saving the Mazda-Ford relationship after all, but this much is clear; the next Mazda mid-size sedan to be sold on these shores will wear a “Made in Japan” label.
[Mazda North American Operations, via PR Newswire]