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Old 07-24-2008, 09:36 PM   #1
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Japanese adding jobs to the American workforce...

In Detroit...

Thursday, July 24, 2008
Mazda6 production launches at Flat Rock
Bryce G. Hoffman / The Detroit News

Mazda Motor Corp. officially kicked off production of its new Mazda6 sedan at the AutoAlliance International plant in Flat Rock Wednesday, a rare piece of good news for Michigan's struggling automobile industry.

Mazda CEO Hisakazu Imaki made the trip from Hiroshima to mark the launch of the new vehicle, which is expected to deliver a big boost to Mazda's sales in North America. That is also good news for Ford Motor Co., which owns controlling interest in the Japanese automaker and also produces Ford Mustangs at the same plant.

"AutoAlliance International symbolizes the strong cooperative relationship that has benefited both Mazda and Ford for many years," Imaki told the 900 workers and 100 invited guests who gathered in Flat Rock for the ceremony Wednesday morning. "Going forward, we will continue to provide our customers with the highest quality products in order to further strengthen Mazda's presence in North America."


He said the factory and the products it produces are critical to Mazda's strategy of concentrating on the North American market.

Jim O'Sullivan, CEO of Mazda North American Operations, said the new midsized sedan is the third model -- after the already successful Mazda CX-7 and CX-9 crossovers -- to be designed and engineered specifically for the North American market. Mazda made it bigger than its Japanese stable mate to better accommodate the height and girth of American consumers.

"The Mazda6 is the most important new vehicle Mazda has launched in a decade, and each of you here today has a critical role to play in the success of the car," he told workers. "It is your commitment to the highest production standards, top-of-the-line quality and attention to detail that will make the Mazda6 stand out in what is a very competitive segment."

Mazda began producing vehicles in Flat Rock in 1987, even before Ford acquired a controlling interest in the brand. Mazda platforms now provide the foundation for most of Ford's newer vehicles.

The factory began producing the first-generation Mazda6 in 2002.

The second-generation Mazda6 will be offered with Mazda's new 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine or Ford's 3.7-liter V6. Those can be coupled with a six-speed manual transmission, a five-speed sport automatic with the four-cylinder or a six-speed sport automatic with the V6. Both automatics feature manual-shift modes.

The vehicle is expected to arrive at dealerships in late August.

Product analyst Erich Merkle of Crowe Chizek and Co. in Grand Rapids expects the new Mazda6 to sell 25 percent to 30 percent more units than the previous model.

"It's a big opportunity for them, because that segment of the market is doing really well with higher gas prices," he said. "It's a very competitive segment, but this is very well done. The styling is great. It should do very well for Mazda."

AutoAlliance head Gary Roe said the launch of the Mazda6 is the fruit of an ongoing collaboration between the company, the United Auto Workers and local government authorities who offered tax abatements to help offset retooling costs.

"It's very important to Michigan and to our local community," he said.
"Let the rest of the world dream of Ferraris, Lamborghinis and dinky little British two-seaters. In this country speed doesn't look like that." Got SS?
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