Sales In Asia Help Mazda Return To Profit

TOKYO (AP) — Mazda Motor Corp. says it has shaken off a long spell of losses, turning a 12.2 billion yen ($153.3 million) profit in the July-September quarter, though it revised downward its sales forecast for the year.

The Hiroshima-based automaker's profit for the quarter compared with a 14.4 billion yen loss a year earlier. Mazda said its net profit for the first half of the fiscal year was 5.7 billion yen ($71.6 million).

The maker of the Miata sports car and CX-5 crossover sport-utility vehicle exceeded its April forecasts, selling 613,000 vehicles in the first half of the year, about on par with a year earlier. The new CX-5 supported stronger sales, the company said.

Cost cutting and a change in product mix in favor of the new CX-5 helped drive the improved profitability, it said.

Mazda, Japan's fifth-largest automaker, is forecasting a net profit of 10 billion yen ($125.6 million) for the fiscal year that ends on March 31, unchanged from its April forecast. It is forecasting 2.2 trillion yen ($27.6 billion) in sales for the fiscal year, down 30 percent from its earlier forecast.

In the first half of this fiscal year, sales in Australia and Southeast Asia were relatively stronger, but like other Japanese automakers, Mazda's sales were hit by the recent flare-up in a volatile territorial dispute with China, with sales falling 35 percent from a year earlier in September.

While its global sales in April-September fell 8.5 percent below its April forecast, sales in China lagged by nearly 29 percent.

Mazda's sales in April-September were flat in North America but rose 16 percent from a year earlier in Japan, helped by demand for diesel engine models. Gains in Russia helped offset a 6 percent fall in sales in Europe. Sales in China dropped 15 percent in the first half from a year earlier, but jumped 54 percent in the Southeast Asian region.