Mazda North American Operations (MNAO) has started US production of the new 6 line at AutoAlliance International (AAI ) with a brilliant yellow sports sedan.

Present as Job One rolled off the assembly line were the president and CEO of MNAO Charlie Hughes, AAI president and CEO Phil Spender, UAW local 3000 president Mike Thornton and AAI chairman Takashi Yamanouchi plus almost 2,000 plant workers.

The US-specification cars, on sale from mid November, will come in two trim levels. The 6i has a 160hp 2.3-litre four-cylinder engine while the 6s has a 220hp three-litre V6.

In preparation for the start-up of US production, 200 AAI employees were trained at Mazda’s Hofu plant in Japan, where the model is produced for European, Asian and other markets.

Mazda Motor Corporation also supported the new-vehicle launch by dispatching more than 100 engineers from Japan to AAI for as long as a year to assure product quality met exacting standards.

Ford Motor Company and Mazda Motor Corporation entered into a joint venture to create AutoAlliance International in 1992. Past vehicle models produced at the facility include the Ford Probe, Mercury /Ford Cougar and Mazda’s MX-6 and 626.

The assembly line design for the Mazda 6 sedan is flexible enough to accommodate the planned addition of the sport wagon and five-door body styles with no production shutdown.

The plant is also scheduled to build the 2004 Ford Mustang.