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Mazda is pushing upscale with the launch of the seven-passenger CX-9, a new crossover vehicle scheduled to reach showrooms next month.

Last year, Mazda's sales in North America grew four percent to 268,786 units. Mazda North America officials are anticipating sales of between 20,000 and 25,000 CX-9s this year, and expect sales will reach 40,000 units in 2008.


The CX-9 uses some of the same components as the Mazda6 and the new Ford Edge but has its own unique look and feel, said Robert Davis, vice president of product development and quality at Mazda North America.

The CX-9 was designed with three rows of seating to separate it from the slightly smaller CX-7, which has only two rows of seats and was introduced last spring amid a chorus of generally favorable commentary. Mazda's new crossover is powered by a 3.5-liter, 263-horsepower V-6 and is the largest vehicle ever developed by Mazda.

Hiroshi Takeshita, one of the senior engineering executives responsible for the vehicle’s development, says the CX-9 is one of the few vehicles the company has developed specifically for the North American market. The new three-row crossover also will be one of the most expensive vehicles ever sold by Mazda in the U.S. The base prices start at $26,032; optional all-wheel drive adds $1200 and various option packages on the up-level models can run the price tag to $37,000.

Chris Hill, the CX-9 vehicle line manager, said the crossover basically completes the Mazda lineup in the U.S. and gives the company an entry in a critical mid-size segment where it will compete for attention with vehicles such as the Honda Pilot and Toyota Highlander.


Advertising for the CX-9 will begin next month just as the vehicles begin arriving in Mazda showrooms from Japan. They will also reach showrooms about the same time as the new 2008 Mazda Tribute sport-utility vehicle, which is built by Ford.

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