Mazda Motor Corp. will expand product ranges at its three Japanese dealer channels from March 1 in an effort to boost its domestic sales amid tough competition.

According to Dow Jones, Ford affiliate Mazda aims to offer more models across a broader regional area by expanding model lines at its dealerships.

The latest sales strategy comes after the carmaker lifted domestic vehicle sales 5.6% year-on-year in 2003, the first rise in annual sales since 1997.

Dow Jones said Mazda will start selling six minicar models at its Mazda and Mazda Anfini dealers, which currently sell Mazda passenger cars and commercial vehicles but not minivehicles. The move will mean these channels will both have the full product range of Mazda models.

At its Mazda Autozam dealerships, which mainly sell minivehicles, Mazda will start selling three additional passenger car models.

Dow Jones noted that Japanese carmakers are stepping up efforts to reorganise domestic dealership networks amid expected limited growth in the domestic market.

Toyota Motor is trying to reduce its number of dealerships and plans to introduce its Lexus brand in Japan next year while Nissan Motor also recently reduced its domestic sales network to only two channels, the report added.