Mazda will soon directly distribute vehicles in Austria, Central and Eastern Europe by establishing a joint venture to control operations for nine markets.

This follows the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding of the purchase from Erste Bank of its 50 per cent share of Mazda Austria GmbH. In addition to operating in Austria, the company also manages distribution in Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia, Macedonia, Yugoslavia, Bosnia, Romania and Bulgaria.

Mazda will operate the business as a joint venture with Itochu Corporation, which is the other shareholder. The formal agreement is expected to be completed by the end of January 2002.

"With the completion of this purchase Mazda has increased control of its distribution operations across Europe from about 35 percent to nearly 80 percent  in just 18 months," said Mazda Motor Europe president Jan Brentebråten.

"This creates the foundation for cost-efficient and brand consistent marketing across Europe."