Next Midsize Mazda Won't Be U.S. Built

By Bill Visnic June 6, 2011

Last US Built Mazda 6.jpg

After news reports from Japan late last week said Mazda Motor Corp. would discontinue production of its Mazda6 midsize sedan in the U.S., the company confirmed today that the next generation of the Mazda6 will be built at its plant in Hofu, Japan – leaving open the possibility that Mazda will pull out entirely from its 50-50 joint-venture assembly plant with Ford Motor Co. at Auto Alliance International (AAI) in Flat Rock, MI.

In a statement today to announce the North American version of its next-generation midsize sedan will be built in Japan, Mazda did not shut the door on future production at the Flat Rock site, saying, “Mazda is conducting various studies with Ford on the future of AAI and will announce details at the appropriate time.” But the ongoing strength of the yen has mitigated against profiting from exchange rates, while Mazda6 sales volumes also have slipped markedly.

Ford also has signaled it is considering moving out of the Flat Rock site, which currently produces the Mustang ponycar line alongside the Mazda6. Through the economic recession and the current stilted recovery, Ford has had trouble building volumes for the Mustang; last summer, the company cut production from two shifts to one and reassigned 900 workers to other Ford assembly plants.

060311 Mazda6 & Mustang Sales3 - AO.jpg“Our intention is to transfer production of our next C/D (size)-car for North America from AAI and consolidate it at Hofu in order to improve production and investment efficiencies and optimize our business,“ said Takashi Yamanouchi, representative director and chairman of the board, president and CEO of Mazda Motor Corporation. “The decision was made after carefully assessing all risks and opportunities, including global needs, changing demand in North America, and exchange rate exposure. Going forward, Mazda will strive to maintain and grow our business in America.

Tough Segment To Crack
For Mazda, meanwhile, the writing has been on the Flat Rock wall for some time. Production of the Mazda6 midsize sedan was initiated at the site in 2002 and it’s been a bumpy ride most of the way for a perpetual niche brand battling popular, deeply-entrenched models such as the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord. Mazda’s strengths typically have been in the sportier market segments, its image being built largely on low-volume sportscars such as the MX-5 Miata and RX nameplate, while its best-selling model, the Mazda3 compact car, accounts for nearly half of the company’s annual sales in the U.S.

For the Mazda6, sales have been inconsistent but never much of a factor in the giant U.S. midsize sedan segment. In January, 2008, for example, data from Edmunds.com indicate a peak share of the U.S. midsize-sedan segment of 3.76 percent. But from there it’s been mostly downhill: last month, the Mazda6 accounted for just 0.96 percent of the segment’s sales and the sedan’s True Cost of Incentives figure was $2,002 and incentives have run as high as $3,152 this year, although the figure has declined steadily since January.

A redesign for the 2009 model year did the Mazda6 no particular favors, as the car was enlarged – and appeared so, to the distress of many Mazda loyalists who prized the company’s reputation for developing lithe and nimble alternatives to mass-market competitors. Only three times after October, 2009, was the Mazda6’s market share to exceed 2 percent.

Mazda’s statement did not, so far, indicate when Mazda6 production will cease at the Michigan joint-venture plant, saying only, “The current North American Mazda6 will continue to be built at AAI until the end of its current cycle plan,” meaning U.S. production of the current Mazda6 could stop by sometime next summer.

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carguy58 says: 5:55 PM, 06.06.11

Build the Mazda 3 and the new CX-5 there. I have a 07 Mazda 6i sport that is built well and I like the size of it.

Looks like the peak valume for the 6(then 626) was 1994-2000 before a car like the Hyundai Sonata was a player. I remember the 1999-2003 Mitsubishi Galant being a bigger player then it is now back in that era.

Looks like the biggest years for the Mustang were 1999-2002 and mid 2005-mid 2006.

bc1960 says: 6:18 PM, 06.06.11

I've owned a 626 and a Mazda6 built at Flat Rock and noticed no difference in quality compared to a 626 that was built at Hofu. But to make effective use of the plant they need to build their highest-volume vehicle there, or multiple vehicles that use a common platform and power trains--like, yes, the Mazda3, the Mazda5, and the CX-5. They built 626s, MX-6s, and Probes that had quite different body stampings over similar monocoques so it should be manageable.

throwback says: 8:04 AM, 06.07.11

They are going to import the 6 from Japan, so I guess we can expect a heafty price increase.

bc1960 says: 12:40 PM, 06.07.11

@throwback: ordinarily a strong yen would make it advantageous to build in the US, but because Mazda sources so many parts from Japan, and low US sales volume doesn't sufficiently amortize their fixed costs at Flat Rock, it hasn't been. Consolidating production at Hofu may actually lower prices; plus, they still have to sell a price/value combination vs. the competition, which limits the amount they can charge. They also may not produce another unique-to-North-America stretched version and just send us the standard Mazda6, which would also cut costs.

offroadbob1 says: 9:08 PM, 11.11.11

I really like the current Mazda 6. It handles well, it is comfortable and attractive. I do not like that rear seat A/C vents are not available. In sunny California, that is is deal-breaker for families. I would likely be very happy with either the 4- or 6-cylinder engines. Okay, I would be REALLY happy with the V-6. I would also like to see the new SkyActiv diesel engines widely available across the the whole Mazda Range. After all, how could a Mazda enthusiast not like tire-shredding torque and fuel-sipping efficiency?

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