Mazda in no rush to form capital alliance with Fiat: Yamanouchi


Mazda President Takashi Yamanouchi said he is in no rush to form a capital alliance with Fiat despite entering a business tieup with the Italian automaker and indicated his company could work together with other automakers as well.

“While there are many forms of alliance, we do not intend on rushing to form a capital alliance (with Fiat) as we have relations with Ford Motor Co.,” Yamanouchi said in an interview Tuesday, implying Mazda Motor Corp.’s alliance with Fiat Group Automobiles SpA will be limited to technology and products.

Yamanouchi added that Mazda has been approached by “several” other companies for tieups but declined to elaborate.

Mazda and Fiat announced late last month they had exchanged a nonbinding memorandum of understanding to develop and produce two models of a sports car based on Mazda’s next-generation MX-5 rear-wheel-drive architecture.

Mazda indicated both models would be produced at its Hiroshima plant, one model for sale by Mazda and the other for sale as an Alfa Romeo, a Fiat group brand. Production of the Alfa Romeo roadster is to start in 2015.

On Tuesday, Yamanouchi hinted Mazda won’t rule out the possibility of producing the vehicles at plants overseas.

“As I believe there are various possibilities, I will not hold talks with (Fiat) with a set conclusion,” he said.

Through the alliance with the Italian automaker, Mazda intends to cut development costs and production investment, and keep employment as it struggles to return to profitability following four straight years of losses. For the last business year to March 31, Mazda posted a net loss of ¥107.73 billion, hit by the yen’s appreciation.

But Yamanouchi said Mazda aims to swing back into the black this year, helped by strong sales of the CX-5 sport utility vehicle, especially with the popularity of its diesel model.

“We are selling (the diesel model) beyond the previous existing market size,” said Yamanouchi, noting Mazda has sold nearly twice as many diesel-powered CX-5s already this year as the total of all diesel passenger vehicles sold within Japan in 2011, which was roughly 9,000 vehicles.

The automaker plans to beef up CX-5 production capacity from 160,000 vehicles a year to 200,000, and Yamanouchi said further expansion is possible.

Mazda also said it has been developing technology to use a hydrogen rotary engine to serve as a power generator for an electric vehicle and plans to lease vehicles featuring them starting next year.