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Japan’s trade concerns

Mazda Hofu Plant, Nishinoura District, Japan

Japanese car manufacturers that rely heavily on exports to sell their models in the US would be hardest hit by trade restrictions the country is threatening to impose.

Analysts have said that Mazda is most exposed to any trade restrictions in the world’s biggest car market after China, and their knock-on effects.

Mazda’s operating profit could be cut by 8.5 per cent in the year to March 2019 as it faces risks from a stronger yen if the trade uncertainties weaken the U.S. dollar, while any trade restrictions would raise the cost of imported cars from Japan, they said. 

Japan’s “Big 3” carmakers – Toyota, Nissan and Honda – face risks if an updated North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) raises tariffs on vehicles and parts made in Mexico, where all three operate plants, and Canada, where Toyota and Honda build vehicles.

But their relatively higher U.S. production levels than their smaller rivals and more diverse regional manufacturing and sales footprint could help to cushion any impact.

Nissan and Honda, among the Japanese automakers with the most production in North America, could see profit rises of 9 per cent and nearly 6 per cent, respectively, they forecast.

Japanese automakers are already struggling with sluggish sales in North America due to falling demand for sedans, a mainstay of their offering and deeper discounts to shore up sales are hitting margins.

“(W)e see risks to the sustainability of export operations at Mazda Motor and Mitsubishi Motors, which are highly exposed to exports and have no production bases in the U.S. at present,” Nomura analyst Masataka Kunugimoto said in a research note earlier this month to Reuters.

While analysts expect Mazda to post a median fall in operating profit of 8.5 per cent in the financial year underway, some forecasts are for a much steeper decline. A fall would reverse a 20 per cent rise forecast for the year ended March 2018 as a weaker yen boosted its earnings.

Mazda sold roughly 1.6 million vehicles globally in the year to March 2017, nearly 20 per cent of them – all imported – in the United States.

Both Mazda and bigger rival Toyota see roughly 30 per cent of their global sales from the United States, Canada and Mexico, but around 70 per cent of the nearly 3 million cars Toyota currently sells in North America are produced locally in North America.

Mazda, which operates a factory in Mexico, announced earlier this year that it and Toyota would jointly build a manufacturing plant in Alabama, although vehicle production will not begin until 2021.


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Mazda’s new retail experience

Customers can also use the store to configure the new car of their choice on a massive wall-mounted touch-screen – Source: Mazda NZ

Mazda New Zealand has developed a new business model for its retailers called Connect, following Toyota New Zealand’s recent “Drive Happy” restructure.

The first Mazda Connect store will open on April 27, in Silverdale, 30km north of Auckland.

What are the major changes?

There are no salespeople, only Mazda “ambassadors” whose job it is to provide information and assistance to the customer, rather than push the product. 

Customers can also use the store to configure the new car of their choice on a massive wall-mounted touch-screen. 

The main difference is in the commitment to a non-automotive location, the presentation of the brand and the attitude towards the customer, says Mazda NZ national marketing manager Glenn Harris and AHG country manager Mike Critchley to Stuff NZ.

“This is not a pop-up store like we’re used to in lots of malls around NZ,” said Harris. “This is here to say. We’ve taken a six-year lease out on this space and we believe this is the future.

Mazda NZ’s stake in the retail project is the first step in creating a franchise format that can be used around the country. A second store is already confirmed for Wellington in October.

“We need to do things differently, as a retailer, we need to evolve. Everything’s changing around us, but we in the automotive category [seem to be] the last to change.”

“If you look at some of the others who have started to make their home in our industry, we have to learn from them: the likes of Apple, Google and Amazon,” said Harris.

“Connect is the first embodiment of how we believe the automotive retail model will evolve, and we focus as much on how we present our brand and where we present it, as what we build.”

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Mazda and Toyota establish new company

Mazda Motor Corporation and Toyota Motor Corporation have established a new joint-venture company “Mazda Toyota Manufacturing, U.S.A.” that will produce vehicles in Huntsville, Alabama starting in 2021.

The new plant will have the capacity to produce 150,000 units of Mazda’s crossover model that will be newly introduced to the North American market and 150,000 units of the Toyota Corolla.

The facility is expected to create up to 4,000 jobs. Toyota and Mazda are investing $1.6 billion towards this project with equal funding contributions.

“We hope to make a plant that will hold a special place in the heart of the local community for many, many years,” said Mazda’s Executive Officer Masashi Aihara, who will serve as President.

“The new plant, which will be Toyota’s 11th manufacturing facility in the U.S., not only represents our continuous commitment in this country, but also is a key factor in improving our competitiveness of manufacturing in the U.S.,” said Hironori Kagohashi, executive general manager of Toyota.

“We are committed to realising a highly competitive plant and producing vehicles with the best quality for customers by combining Toyota and Mazda’s manufacturing expertise and leveraging the joint venture’s synergies. Based on this competitiveness, we will make every effort to becoming a best-in-town plant that will be loved by our hometown,” he added.

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Mazda receives first place ranking

Mazda has received the first-place ranking in the overall “Manufacturer Adjusted Fuel Economy” in US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) report for fifth consecutive year.

The Mazda CX 5

Mazda has announced that the Light Duty Fuel Economy Trends Report released by the EPA lists the company as having the highest overall Manufacturer Adjusted Fuel Economy for the 2016 model year. 

In the Fuel Economy Trends Report, the EPA uses adjusted combined city and highway fuel economy figures for each model by model year, and the average is weighted for sales volume.

This makes it the fifth year in a row that Mazda has received the first-place ranking.  

The EPA’s report summarises fuel economy trends by model year for vehicles sold in the U.S. and ranks automakers by Manufacturer Adjusted Fuel Economy. Mazda’s overall average fuel economy was 29.6 miles per gallon (7.9 l/100km), an improvement of 0.4 mpg over the previous year. 

Mazda New Zealand Managing Director, David Hodge, said the report is further evidence of Mazda’s on-going commitment to producing vehicles that provide a fantastic driving experience while at the same time delivering outstanding environmental and safety performance.

Moving forward, Mazda hopes to help create a future in which people, the earth and society can coexist with cars, to enrich people’s lives through a car ownership experience that celebrates driving, and to become a brand that customers feel a strong emotional connection.


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Autonomous cars – drivers aren’t ready

Autonomous cars becoming part of everyday life is a situation that is drawing ever closer, but it seems the end of the driven car may not be as close.

Mazda recently commissioned a study to find out whether or not people would still want to drive even if their cars could drive autonomously.

According to the study it seems as though most drivers would still want to be able to drive their own cars, even with self-driving technology available.

The research, carried out by research firm Ipsos MORI, revealed that 71 per cent of people said they would still want to drive themselves, while only 29 percent would actively welcome the arrival of autonomous vehicles.

Three-quarters still want to drive autonomous cars themselves.

Mazda believes driving is a skill that people want to keep, it is an activity that can be fun as well as functional and many would like to see this skill retained for future generations.

The research also reveals a significant emotional connection between car and driver as demonstrated by the following statistics, 70 per cent of drivers questioned “hoped that future generations will continue to have the option to drive cars”, while 62 per cent of respondents stated that they have driven “just for fun” and 81 per cent of those who enjoy driving saying it is because it “gives them independence”.

Instead of completely autonomous vehicles, Mazda’s opinion is that autonomous car technology should act as a co-pilot that is primarily used to avoid accidents, not take the pleasure away from the act of driving.

Mazda UK Managing Director Jeremy Thomson said, “Yes, self-driving cars are coming and yes they have a role to play, but for us, there is nothing quite like the physical pleasure of driving; the quickening of the pulse, the racing of the heart, the open road, the special moments to treasure and share.”

“If you look at the car industry in general, we believe that many manufacturers are taking a lot of driving pleasure away from drivers. At Mazda we are fighting against this and it’s clear from the research that there’s still a huge percentage of drivers who just want to be behind the wheel.”

But it’s clear that drivers, well three quarters of them, aren’t quite interested in relinquishing control to an automated system just yet.

Data from the consumer research conducted by Ipsos MORI was based on an online survey conducted among adults across 11 European markets (UK, Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, with a minimum of 1000 surveys in each market). All interviews were conducted between 7–22 September 2017.

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The Mazda foundation gifts over $110,000 to Kiwis

The final Mazda foundation round for 2017 has seen more than $110,000 donated to 35 recipients around New Zealand. This is the largest amount gifted since its inception.

The Creative Kids Trust are one of the groups to benefit from the latest round.

Every year the Mazda foundation hosts three funding rounds to help Kiwis in need, having gifted over $2.8 million since 2005.

David Hodge, Managing Director of Mazda New Zealand and Chairman of the Mazda Foundation, says Mazda is excited to see how the biggest round of funding to date will benefit and help organisations and individuals around the country.

“We love being able to make a difference whether it’s for programmes that support vulnerable children and the purchase of uniforms for the Special Olympics, or for people like Christchurch recipient Diane Williams who had a stroke but is now representing New Zealand. That sort of story is incredible and one of the reasons we set up the Foundation 12 years ago.”

“There are many similar groups and individuals across the country doing great work in their communities that need funding and I’m proud that the Mazda Foundation initiative allows us to reach out and support those that need it the most,” he says. 

The Mazda Foundation is funded through a contribution from the sale of every new Mazda in New Zealand.

More than 50 young children in the Marlborough region are one of the groups to benefit from the latest round with a $10,000 grant made to non-profit organisation Creative Kids.

The organisation, which provides support for vulnerable children through the use of creative arts, runs a music therapy programme to help children with development problems, speech and motor skill issues, and self-confidence.

“Without funding we are limited to the services we can offer these children, but thanks to the Mazda Foundation’s very generous donation we will be able to provide the best quality help and support for our children and the many challenges they face,” says Sara Rogerson, Creative Kids Administrator.

Another beneficiary includes Christchurch resident, Diane Williams, who received $12,000 for an electronic power chair designed specifically for international wheelchair soccer competitions.

Diane Williams, Mazda foundation beneficiary

After suffering a stroke in 2010, Diane was paralysed on the right side of her body and unable to speak, leaving her confined to a wheelchair and with limited movement.

To help her adjust to her new life in a wheelchair, Diane started playing wheelchair soccer where she was chosen to play for the Canterbury Boltz Power Chair Soccer Team, before being selected to represent New Zealand internationally.

Auckland Special Olympics also received a $3,580 grant to purchase uniforms for the team competing at this year’s Special Olympic New Zealand National Summer Games in Wellington.

The Auckland Special Olympics team were recipients from this funding round.

The closing date for the next round of Mazda Foundation applications is 30 March 2018. For more information or to download an application form, visit

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Mazda plant open for business

Mazda Hofu Plant Nishinoura District Japan

Mazda Motor Corporation has begun production of the new Mazda CX-5 at its Hofu Plant.

Until now the CX-5 has been produced at the company’s Hiroshima Plant and at plants in China and Malaysia (for other markets)

The planned production is in order to enable the company to meet the growing global demand for Mazda crossover vehicles.

Managing director for Mazda New Zealand, David Hodge said having the CX-5 produced at the Hofu plant will help markets such as New Zealand keep up with demand for the award-winning vehicle.

“The new CX-5 further enhances the popularity of the vehicle that has won numerous motoring awards in New Zealand since it was first launched in 2012 and we are delighted the new CX-5 is a finalist in the 2017 AA/NZ Car of the Year Awards and a contender for People’s Choice.”

Mazda is working to meet a global sales volume target of 1.65 million units by the end of its three-year business plan, Structural Reform Stage 2, which was launched last fiscal year. In recent years global demand for crossovers has surged. To meet this demand expeditiously, the company has made its production system more flexible.

In December 2016 the Hofu Plant joined the Hiroshima plant in producing the CX-3, a compact crossover SUV and in August of this year, the system for production of crossovers at the Hiroshima Plant’s body factory was enhanced.

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Mazda helps kiwis fly

Mazda has announced a partnership with Kiwis for kiwi, a national conservation charity.

Kiwis for kiwi will launch a unique initiative as part of its ongoing work to save New Zealand’s national icon and flightless bird from extinction.

The Mazda Foundation has provided the charity with two Mazda CX-5 vehicles as well as funding for the project.

Kiwis for kiwi executive director, Michelle Impey, said the support of the Mazda Foundation has provided the opportunity to launch a transformational new initiative that will contribute to the task of turning around the decline in kiwi populations.

“We are thrilled to have the Mazda Foundation’s support which will see us working together on an exciting new project which we look forward to announcing next year.  They’ve very generously given us two new ‘kiwimobiles’ to help us transport our people and kiwi, safely and in style.”

David Hodge, chairman of the Mazda Foundation, said getting behind such a great initiative was an easy decision for the Foundation. 

“The Kiwi is such an important part of our national identity and if our support can help in some way to ensure its survival then that is a great outcome for everyone.”

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10-year anniversary for Mazda initiative

Wellington’s Houghton Valley School has created a new outdoor learning zone, including a viewing platform overlooking native trees as part of Treemendous.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Treemendous initiative, a joint action between Project Crimson Trust and the Mazda Foundation.

In order to celebrate the milestone, an extra school on top of the usual four was selected to receive $10,000 towards an environmental project.

On Saturday (12 August), members of the school community, parents, teachers and children, staff from Mazda New Zealand and Capital City Motors, Mazda Foundation Trustees, along with the team from Project Crimson, all pitched in together to dig holes, move mulch and plant trees and shrubs.

The school had a large unused bush wilderness area that was transformed to include paths and seating. Viewing areas were constructed on the day to allow current and future students to observe and learn about the extensive natives planted, which now enhance the school’s existing bush surroundings.

“The new outdoor learning zone will be invaluable to the teachings of current and future students. Our staff and students are eager to incorporate the environmental space into their everyday curriculum to emphasise the importance of looking after the environment now, and in the future,” says principal Raewyn Watson

“We want to give a special thanks to our environment leader Jill Holmstead, all the children, the Mazda Foundation, Project Crimson and the local community who took time out of their day to make this all happen,” she says.

Ruud Kleinpaste brought along his insect friends and spoke with the students, educating them about New Zealand native bugs and the importance of looking after the environment.

Mazda Ambassador Riley Elliott, who’s better known as ‘Shark Man’, also attended the event and talked to students on the Friday prior about the importance of looking after marine ecosystems and encouraged them to pursue what they are passionate about.

“Houghton Valley was a notable example of the passion and enthusiasm the students and the school have about the environment. It was a tremendous success and I can’t wait to hear how the students utilise the revitalised area,“ says Mazda Foundation Trustee Andrew Clearwater.

Houghton Valley was the fourth school to become a Treemendous School this year, following Nelson Central in June, Leithfield School in May and Alexandra Primary School in March. The final school to get a visit from the Treemendous team will be Reporoa School on 16 September.

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Mazda’s future emissions reduction

Mazda Motor Corporation aims to reduce corporate average carbon dioxide emissions and achieve a 90 per cent reduction by 2050.

The manufacturer’s vision – ‘Sustainable Zoom-Zoom 2030’ will look towards the year 2030 and as part of the vision, the manufacturer will introduce a next-generation engine called SKYACTIV-X in 2019. 

“The first generation SKYACTIV engine really made its mark in New Zealand due to both its power and environmental performance. The exciting changes planned for the next-generation SKYACTIV-X will further highlight the company’s commitment to the environment while still delivering the thrill of driving great cars,” says managing director of Mazda New Zealand, David Hodge.

Mazda will expand measures for carbon dioxide reduction from a “well-to-wheel” perspective, considering emissions over the vehicle’s entire life cycle. Its aim is to reduce corporate average “well-to-wheel” carbon dioxide emissions to 50 percent of 2010 levels by 2030.

This will be achieved by prioritising efficiency improvements and measures for cleaner emissions that apply in the real world. 

From 2019, the company will start introducing electric vehicles and other electric drive technologies in regions that use a high ratio of clean energy for power generation or restrict certain vehicles to reduce air pollution.

More advanced safety technologies will also be developed under the Mazda Proactive Safety philosophy, working towards the goal of eliminating traffic accidents.

Testing will begin in 2020 of autonomous driving technologies currently being developed in line with Mazda’s human-centered Mazda Co-Pilot Concept with the aim to make the system standard on all models by 2025.


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Toyota, Mazda to build joint EV plant

Executives announced the partnership at a conference in Tokyo over the weekend.

Japanese rivals Toyota and Mazda have announced they will join forces to build a $2.2 billion electric car factory in the US.

Toyota has also announced a plan to take a five per cent share of Mazda Motor Corp as part of the new joint venture.

The plant will be capable of producing 300,000 vehicles a year, executives told journalists at a news conference in Tokyo, and will employ approximately 4,000 people. Vehicle production is slated to begin in 2021.

Reuters reports that future EVs will include a Toyota Corolla and a Mazda crossover utility vehicle.

“There will be new rivals appearing – Apple, Google – these are IT companies, we also need to compete with them too,” said Toyota president Akio Toyoda.

Toyoda said that the development of electric vehicles and alternative energy, which he has been overseeing in the company since last year, was different than traditional combustion engines.

“There are no nautical charts for us to follow,” he added. “It’s without precedent.”

Toyota has previously set a goal for all vehicles to be zero emission by 2050. Until now, the top-selling car maker has been investing heavily in hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles over EVs, which it said are best suited for short-distance commuting.

Toyota and Mazda are the two of the top-selling passenger car brands in New Zealand, taking out first and third place respectively in both new and used passenger vehicle sales last month.

A future mass-produced Toyota EV would cause a storm amongst electric Kiwi drivers; the major electric-powered Toyota model currently on the market, the Prius, was New Zealand’s top-selling hybrid and eighth highest-selling used vehicle overall in July. 

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