Mazda UK hit its target with record sales of 50,500 vehicles in the financial year ending in March. The UK played a major role in Mazda Europe's 301,200 sales which were the highest for 15 years.

But the next few months, as dealers wait for the redesigned 2 B-segment hatchback and CX-7 crossover to arrive will be "quite an intense time for the industry as a whole," said Mazda UK managing director Rob Lindley.

"We hit the numbers we needed to in a tough retail market and in March, the MX-5 had its best ever month," said Lindley. Sales were 1,973 for the MX-5 including soft top and roadster coupe. 6 sales were also buoyant at 2,944 - a small increase of 1% over March '06 - despite being one of the older models in the current range.

Lindley is looking for the new 2 and CX-7 to boost sales for the financial year to March 2008 by 3,500.

"Our forecast is that we will hit 53,700 in the 2007 fiscal year. We have a lot of new product arriving but it will be in the second half of the year," he said.

Despite the tough UK conditions, March was Mazda's second best ever month with 9,877 sales.

"Overall I am satisfied in what was clearly a pretty tough challenge for the team. Personally I think it will continue to be tough for all retailers in the year ahead as consumer confidence generally is down in the UK at the moment.

"Having said that our strong dealer network combined with the latest sports models - the 3 MPS hot hatch along with the more powerful 2.0-litre 143ps 3 diesel and a new special edition for MX-5 in May - will mean sales momentum continues from spring into summer," added Lindley.

In Europe, Mazda recorded 301,200 sales with four other countries, in addition to the UK, achieving record sales - Russia (35,500), Spain (18,700), France (15,000) and Portugal (4,350).