Mazda has launched a new sports compact car in an effort to boost worldwide sales, company president Hisakazu Imaki said on Wednesday, according to Dow Jones.

The new model, called Mazda3 in Europe [and some other export markets] and Axela elsewhere, is the last of the four core strategic models that the car maker had aimed to market under its midterm business plan, the news agency said.

"We have launched all four next-generation core products," Imaki, who became Mazda's president in late August, told Dow Jones.

The report said Mazda, in which Ford owns a 33.4% stake, aims to sell 250,000 units of the new compact model worldwide in the first year of sales - this includes a target of 100,000 units in North America, 70,000 in Europe and 30,000 in Japan.

The [Familia/323 replacement] Axela uses a platform jointly developed with Ford [for the C-Max minivan and next generation Focus] and its subsidiary Volvo [S40 sedan, V50 estate] in order to reduce development costs, Dow Jones noted, adding that Imaki declined to disclose the value of the cost reduction through the joint development.

Mazda began marketing the new model in Europe in September and plans to sell the model by the end of the year in North America and in January in other Asian countries, the report added.

Mazda has already launched three other core models, the Atenza [Mazda6] sports sedan, the Demio [Mazda2] compact and the RX-8 sports car, since it started working on its midterm business plan in late 2000, Dow Jones said.

Imaki reportedly said Mazda expects sales of these four models to eventually account for two-thirds of its overall sales.

Dow Jones reported that Japan's fifth largest car maker aims to sell 1.05 million units worldwide for this fiscal year to the end of March, up 3.5% from 1.02 million units last fiscal year.

When asked about the impact of a recent surge in the yen on Mazda's earnings for this fiscal year, Imaki declined to comment to Dow Jones, saying only his company will release its latest earnings outlook in November when it reports results for the first half ended September 30.