MAZDA president Mark Fields said European user-chooser fleet sales will form an important part of the manufacturer's programme to return to sustained profitability.
Speaking at the Tokyo Motor Show, Fields told Fleet News Europe that historically the manufacturer's strength was in private sales but emphasised that fleet sales were increasingly important.
But he stressed that any programmes launched to attract fleet sales would be done 'carefully and prudently'.
'How individual countries target fleets will be up to them,' Fields added, 'but it is a market we are looking at.'
Mazda used the show to launch the 626 replacement, called Mazda 6, and production versions of the RX-8 shown as a feasibility model at Detroit.
Commenting on the launch of the Mazda 6, a contender for the Volkswagen Passat and Ford Mondeo, Fields said: 'It delivers high doses of what our target customers want most - that is total driving enjoyment through dynamic performance, a comprehensive and high-level safety package and new four-cylinder petrol and latest generation common-rail diesel engines.
'Its powertrains, chassis systems, body structure and interior layout are all balanced to deliver a 'no excuses' driver's car under all conditions,' he added. 'It is a strong statement of the new direction we are taking at Mazda.'
Talking about the RX-8, due for an early 2003 launch, he said: 'While having genuine sports car styling, the RX-8 will offer an interior package spacious enough for four adults, as well as exceptional driving pleasure.'
Fields also gave an update on Mazda's Millennium Plan - its five-year strategy 'designed to drive the business back to sustained profitability'. He said the manufacturer's progress to date included 'accelerating the development of our next generation of new products, which fully incorporate Mazda's brand DNA'.
'We are also developing various new technologies relating to the environment and safety,' Fields added.
On sales and marketing activities, Fields said: 'We are reinforcing our activities on a global scale. For example, in Europe, we are ahead of our own target of controlling more than 70% of our distribution volume by year-end. In fact, we have already achieved this objective.
'Our plan to produce our next generation small car at Ford's plant in Valencia, Spain, is also on track, a move that will strengthen our business structure on a number of levels and deliver significant benefits from synergy with our partner Ford.'
Commenting on the cars shown by Mazda at the Tokyo show, Fields said: 'The cars here are the next critical step. They are the first to rekindle the energy, the spirit and the competitiveness that once was our way of doing business.'
He added that over the next three years, Mazda will bring nine new products to market in Europe.
New CR-V's fleet appeal
HONDA is confident its second-generation CR-V will appeal to fleet user-choosers across Europe's main markets.
The vehicle, which is chunkier than its predecessor, offers a more powerful but cleaner engine, a Honda spokesman told Fleet News Europe at its launch at the Tokyo Motor Show.
The Japanese manufacturer expects the new vehicle to achieve annual total sales of about 33,000 units in Europe during its first full year, rising to 38,000 and 44,000 in subsequent years. It will be launched next year.
Following its introduction into Europe in 1997, the original Honda CR-V has sold 138,000 units to date, ranking it the third most popular Honda model behind the Civic and the Accord.
'This new model will definitely attract an increasing number of user-chooser fleet sales,' the Honda spokesman said at the show.
Within Europe, Britain is the number one market for CR-V sales, with strong sales also noted in Germany, Italy and France, the manufacturer said.
The spokesman said Honda has demonstrated a 'serious commitment to safety' with the new CR-V and expects it to achieve a four-star rating in the Euro NCAP front and side impact tests.
Bulldog bites into city congestion
HONDA provided European fleets with a taste of how they could avoid city centre congestion in the future with its Bulldog concept vehicle.
Shown at the Tokyo show, the car, which Honda says is shaped like a metal bulldog, comes equipped with two electric scooters in the boot - which when folded double as the back of the Bulldog's rear passenger seats.
The vehicle can be driven to a congestion boundary and the driver and passenger can then use the electric scooters to avoid traffic queues - and toll charges.
Hyundai concept car a taster for firm's supermini
HYUNDAI'S concept car shown at the Tokyo Motor Show provided an 'indication' of what its new supermini will look like.
Codenamed TB, the car will rival the likes of the Ford Fiesta, Renault Clio and Opel Corsa in the fiercely competitive European supermini market.
'Designed to be user-friendly both in the city and on the motorway, the TB is less than four metres in length, 1.6 metres tall and under 1.5 metres wide, and can carry five people in comfort,' the manufacturer said.
The TB's floorpan was used for the futuristic Clix concept car, which was shown at the Frankfurt International Motor Show earlier this year.
It will be available with 1.1, 1.3 and 1.6 petrol engines or as a 1.5 common-rail turbodiesel and will come as a three- or five-door.
'The car shown at the Tokyo Motor Show is not the final version of the TB study, but gives an indication of what the car will eventually look like,' Hyundai said. The final version of the car is due for launch next year.
Z-car's profit criteria for Euro sales
NISSAN executives have yet to decide whether its 350Z sports car, shown at the Tokyo Motor Show, will go on sale across Europe. The manufacturer said it bases its decision on whether to launch a vehicle 'purely on whether it will be profitable'.
Executive vice-president Norio Matsumura said: 'We are discussing how and where to market the car and we have not yet reached a decision regarding Europe. The car has to be profitable.'
The Z-car is powered by a 3.5-litre V6 engine. Its main market will be the United States. (November 2001)