Mazda Motor Corp. said Thursday its consolidated net profit in the first half of fiscal 2003 doubled from a year earlier to 11.15 billion yen.

Profit rose for the third consecutive year due to successful cost reductions and increased sales in Europe, China and Australia, it said.

The automaker, based in Fuchu, Hiroshima Prefecture, said the yen’s depreciation against the euro and other currencies helped offset the negative impact of the yen-dollar exchange rate and brought foreign-exchange profits in the April-September period.

Its consolidated operating profit surged 93.7 percent to 28.43 billion yen and its consolidated pretax profit more than doubled to 19.01 billion yen.

Group sales rose 4.3 percent to 1.21 trillion yen, while sales volume increased 5.5 percent to 526,000 vehicles worldwide.

Domestic sales slipped 1 percent to 141,000 vehicles, however, due to slow sales of the MPV minivan.

Sales in North America dropped 10.1 percent to 161,000 units due to declining sales to corporate customers and sluggish sales of the Mazda 6 model, known as the Atenza in Japan, company officials said.

The Mazda 6 meanwhile contributed to expanded sales in Europe and other overseas markets, the officials said. Mazda’s sales in Europe leaped 36.2 percent to 124,000 units.

Mazda President Hisakazu Imaki said Mazda hopes to bolster sales in the second half of the business year by strengthening sales of the Demio subcompact, the RX-8 sports car and the Axela midsize car.

“We expect to post an operating profit of 65 billion yen for the full business year of 2003, the highest in the past 10 years,” he said.

Mazda’s global sales goal for the business year is set at 1.06 million vehicles, he said.

For the full year to March, the firm forecasts a consolidated operating profit of 65 billion yen, a consolidated net profit of 30 billion yen and group sales of 2.5 trillion yen.

Big profit for Nissan

Nissan Motor Co. posted a record group operating profit for the fiscal first half that ended Sept. 30 for the seventh consecutive half-year.

The profit was due to cost reductions and strong sales of new models, the nation’s No. 2 automaker said Thursday.

Nissan said its group operating profit rose 15.2 percent from a year earlier to 401.13 billion yen on an 8.2 percent rise in group sales to 3.556 trillion yen.

This brought the ratio of operating profit to sales to a record high 11.3 percent from 10.6 percent a year earlier, it said.

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