Mazda to close factory in truck division revamp

Mazda Motor Corp. unveiled a reorganization plan Monday for its truck and van division that focuses on the closure of a plant in Hiroshima Prefecture.

Mazda’s main truck-manufacturing plant in Fuchu, Hiroshima Prefecture, will be shut down in the 2004 business year, with the bulk of its production work shifted to the Ujina plant in the same prefecture, the automaker said. That plant will be reopened following its closure last year.

Assembly and paint work on four truck models currently carried out at the Fuchu plant will be outsourced gradually to Press Kogyo Co., an affiliate of Isuzu Motors Ltd., in 2003. The four models are the Titan, the Titan Dash, the Bongo Truck and the Bongo Brawny Truck.

These maneuvers will increase Mazda’s domestic vehicle production capacity by 110,000 units a year, or 14 percent, from the current 898,000, the firm said.

“These plans are entirely consistent with our Millennium Plan strategy,” Mazda President Lewis Booth told a news conference in Hiroshima. “They are important enablers of our growth plans, while improving our overall asset utilization.”

Industry analysts say the plan is designed to concentrate Mazda’s management assets on its thriving car operations and away from its sluggish commercial vehicle business.

Booth predicted that the domestic commercial vehicle market would not pick up substantially for some time. He stressed, however, that the move does not signify a full retreat from the truck business.

Mazda’s introduction of cars such as the Atenza and the Demio has brought the automaker’s domestic plants to full operation, according to the analysts.

The Fuchu plant, built in 1960, is Mazda’s oldest factory. It said workers at the Fuchu plant will be transferred to other plants at which production will increase.

He also said the move will not result in any redundancies.

Karaoke on wheels

Toyota Motor Corp.’s WiLL Cypha compact car, released Monday, is the first model to feature the firm’s G-book online information communication system as standard equipment.

The G-book system, which is linked to Toyota’s online network, provides drivers with various services, including car navigation, e-mail, online news, karaoke and a support function in the event of car trouble.

Toyota said it will also offer a new type of lease program for the car, under which users pay a basic fee plus rental costs in proportion to monthly driving distances.

Toyota officials said the firm hopes young people will be drawn to the WiLL Cypha. Industry observers say Toyota does poorly in attracting younger customers.

“We would like to make this the first step in showing that the automobile itself will change,” Toyota President Fujio Cho said.

The Cypha costs 1.26 million yen for models with engine displacements of 1,300cc, while 1,500cc models cost 1.48 million yen.

Toyota said it is targeting monthly sales of 1,500 units.

The Cypha is the third model to be produced under the WiLL brand, which spans manufacturers in various areas.