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Will a new name and a new platform give new life to Mazda’s mid-size hopes?
That’s the question that may be answered in part this week at the Tokyo Motor Show, as Japan’s fifth-largest carmaker and Ford affiliate unveils the Mazda 6, its new lineup of mid-size cars. Consisting of a four-door sedan, a five-door wagon and a five-door hatchback, the vehicle will also be sold in Japan as the Atenza.
The 6, Mazda insists in press materials issued last week, is the sign of things changing at the company. The 6 is the first of 11 new products coming to America in the next 24 months — and, the company says, it’s a linchpin in their global drive to become fiscally healthy once more.
2003 Mazda 6Enlarge Photo
On the edge
The 6 is a critical vehicle in Mazda’s plan for a wider share of global mid-size markets, particularly in North America. It’s evidence that the company has adopted a philosophy that turns away from its car-in-every-segment policy that nearly ruined the company in the early 1990s.
Back then, Mazda aggressively pursued larger brands like Toyota and Honda in nearly every market niche — a race it could ill afford, even with strong products like the executive-class Millenia. Since then, financial problems have been a constant source of turmoil for Mazda, which cut ten percent of its salaried workforce earlier this year as part of an aggressive turnaround plan. A sharp knife has trimmed debt by 50 percent since 1996, but it still stands at $5 billion, enough to choke a much larger company.