Quick response has helped Mazda ride the recession so far better than most of its rivals, Mazda Motor Europe’s president said a the Bologna show.

“We’ve been able to respond quickly because we’re nimble,” James Muir said. “We’ve taken out production and cut our forecasts so that we are not pushing product into the dealerships,” he said shortly after unveiling the redesigned five-door C-segment 3 which goes on sale across Europe from the middle of next year.

“We are currently revising our forecasts for the next two years but the objective is to maintain or grow our market share but at considerably reduced volumes.”

Muir estimates that the total European market will be down by between 20 and 25% next year, between 3m and 4m cars.

“That’s a heck of a lot of cars whether you have a 2% or a 10% market share,” he said.

“We’re planning for the worst and hoping for the best. Markets across Europe are dropping at or above 30%. Maybe 2009 won’t be as severe as we’ve had for the last few months.”

Muir said that the first half of 2008 had been very good for Mazda in Europe, running ahead of revenue and profit by as much as 17% compared with the first half of 2007.

“It’s all driven by new product,” he said.

He expects the new 3 to sell around 100,000 units across Europe in a full year, about the same as the B-segment 2 and slightly more than the D-segment 6.

“I’m very excited about [the 3]. The design is a good evolution of the current model and under the skin the changes make it a much sportier car to drive without losing the comfort.”