Mazda announced that it would cease production of the Mazda MAZDA6 at the AutoAlliance International (AAI) assembly plant in Flat Rock, Mich. after the current model run ends next year. The AutoAlliance plant is a joint venture between Mazda and Ford, and on top of the fact that this relationship is slowly dissolving, Mazda has been losing money at this plant in recent years including a $102.6 million loss for its most recent fiscal year.
In addition to this North American plant, the MAZDA6 is also built in China and Hofu, Japan. So far, Mazda has not confirmed the name of its next mid-size sedan set to replace the current MAZDA6, but it did say this vehicle would be built solely at the Hofu assembly plant. According to a Mazda press release, this move is 'part of ongoing efforts to increase global manufacturing efficiencies.'?
'Our intention is to transfer production of our next CD-car for North America from AAI and consolidate it at Hofu in order to improve production and investment efficiencies and optimize our business," said Takashi Yamanouchi, Representative Director and Chairman of the Board, President and CEO of Mazda Motor Corporation. "The decision was made after carefully assessing all risks and opportunities, including global needs, changing demand in North America, and exchange rate exposure.'?
Mazda is expected to end production of the second-generation MAZDA6 in 2012, and the next-generation model (called a CD-car) should debut is likely to based off the new design of the Mazda Shinari Concept as well as use Mazda's SkyActiv chassis and powertrain technologies. The unified production and the updated styling and technology should help improve sales of the MAZDA6. Last month, sales of this car were down 53 percent compared to 2010, and through the first five months of 2011, sales are down 9 percent compared to the same time period in 2010.
The AAI joint venture began in 1992 and now builds the Mazda6 and Ford Mustang, but Ford has been divesting itself of Mazda ownership in recent years from once owning a third of the company to now just about 3 percent. There is still a possibility that a future Mazda model will be built at AAI, but the automaker said that is working with Ford to study the future of this joint venture and the plant. Production of the MAZDA6 started at the plant in 2002, and the second-generation model was introduced for the 2009 model year. Since Mazda began building vehicles at AAI, the plant has produced more than 1.7 million Mazdas including the 6, the 626 and the MX-6. This plant also built the Ford Probe from 1989 through 1997.
'We are committed to working with Ford, our joint venture partner in AAI, to identify potential future opportunities for the plant. Mazda and Ford have enjoyed a close relationship for over 30 years,'? said Yamanouchi. 'We have collaborated on projects where there are mutual benefits, and both companies remain committed to continuing this strategic partnership."