Mazda Motors UK Limited is claiming a “dramatic recovery” in its sales performance since the Japanese ‘factory shop’ unit took over from the previous independent importer last August. It has set an ambitious target of 27,000 sales for 2002.

Between January and July 2001, the previous Mazda importer sold 7,678 vehicles, while, in the five months from August to December, MMUK shifted 8,175.

November was the first month the marque, a mere niche player in the UK’s 2.45 million-unit new car market, gained a one percent market share since May 2000.

However, Mazda has a long way to go in the UK yet as the new distributor works to build market share. According to Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders statistics, Mazda still sold only 14,259 cars last year, down 28.85 percent on 2000’s 20,041 units.

Mazda Motors UK’s recovery programme began as soon as it took over in August when prices were reduced by an average of 10 percent “to improve the competitive proposition”.

Advertising and media activity were substantially increased, fleet buyers were targeted and, the company claims, a recovery in sales was “noticeable almost immediately”.

A new national television and cinema advertising campaign is running until April, while the range — Demio, 323, 626, MX-5 roadster, Premacy small minivan, Tribute SUV (a badge-engineered Ford Escape/Maverick) and MPV large minivan — has been rationalised and specifications increased while the slow-selling (and overpriced) Xedos 6 and 9 have been axed.

MMUK is clearly looking forward to the launch of the new 6 in place of the ageing 626 this northern hemisphere spring and has encouraged extensive media coverage following the car’s well-received unveiling at recent Japanese and North American motor shows.

The 323 small hatchback range and Premacy small minivan ranges have recently been updated and there is still further scope – the larger MPV minivan is not yet offered with the U.S./Asia-Pacific-specification V6 petrol engine, a diesel (strange in a market where diesels can command a 25 percent share) or optional automatic transmission, for example.

An all-new Demio, sharing a Ford platform and built in a Spanish Ford factory, is also on the way for 2003.

MMUK descrives the upcoming 6, a stylish range of saloon, hatchback and estate models with all-new four-cylinder engines, as “the most significant launch for Mazda in recent years… [it] will be a class leader in many aspects from driving dynamics to load and cabin space.”

The new RX-8 coupe will arrive in the UK during 2003 with 250bhp, 1.3-litre rotary engine and four-seat cabin with Saturn Coupe style ‘suicide’ (rear-hinged) rear doors claimed to eliminate the rear seat access compromises found in traditional coupes.

“We have been delighted with the progress that has been made since the acquisition of the business in August and the actions we have made to get the business back on track,” said MMUK managing director James Muir.

“We are looking forward to a revival of Mazda in this country and fully expect to reach our 2002 target.”