Mazda Motor Corporation#;s chief financial officer Bob Shanks has told the Detroit News that the 33.4 percent Ford-owned Japanese car maker will meet its goal of returning to profitability this year after a record loss last year.

"We feel we are on track, and I do expect us to be profitable this year, exceeding the initial plan to break even," Shanks told the Detroit News in a Geneva motor show interview, adding that the weaker yen has been favourable.

"Ford is pleased with Mazda and is happy that we are becoming profitable," Shanks added. "We want to gain credibility and continue to deliver what we've said."

According to the Detroit News Mazda said last November it expects group net income of 1.3 billion yen, or $US9.8 million, up from last year's record loss of 156 billion yen. The yen has fallen almost nine percent against the dollar in the past six months, the newspaper added, increasing the value of Mazda#;s exports.

Shanks told the Detroit News that Mazda plans to become profitable in Europe by the year ending March 2004, as the company prepares to release new models in the market from 2003 and take more control of European dealers.