Mazda reaffirms partnership with Ford

Mazda Motor Corp. reaffirmed its partnership with ailing U.S. automaker Ford Thursday in announcing a target for global sales of 1.6 million vehicles per year by fiscal 2010.

Mazda sold about 1.1 million vehicles worldwide in the fiscal year ended March 2006. The Hiroshima-based Japanese automaker said in a statement that it will grow more competitive by cutting costs, increasing research investment, strengthening its model lineup and taking more control of its U.S. dealer network.

Mazda will also expand production in Japan by the fiscal year ending March 2008 by 15 percent from now to 996,000 vehicles, boosting production by 31,000 at the Hiroshima plant, and by 67,000 at the Hofu plant, it said.

Mazda, which has been one bright spot in Ford's recent dismal business, said it saw the alliance with Ford Motor Co. as "a win-win partnership." Ford owns 33.9 percent of Mazda, reports AP.

Mazda said it will aim for more than 200 billion yen operating profit in fiscal 2010. That's up by about 63 percent from its operating profit in the latest fiscal year, which ended March 2006.

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