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Mazda Is Confident of Reaching US Sales Goal

Mazda Motor is confident it will achieve its U.S. sales target of 290,000 vehicles in the business year to next March despite a sharp downturn in that market, a top executive said on Tuesday.

Daniel Morris, senior managing executive officer in charge of sales and marketing at Mazda, said despite a double-digit fall in the overall U.S. market so far this year the automaker had achieved a slight increase thanks to stronger-than-expected demand for smaller cars such as the Mazda3 amid record high gasoline prices.

The 290,000 unit target "took into account what we thought would be a slight industry decline and the industry has gone down much more," he told Reuters on the sidelines of a news conference to launch the Biante minivan in Japan. "Yet we're still confident of achieving that.

"We're very well-positioned with Mazda3 sales being up significantly, and Mazda5 (minivan) sales for the calendar year have been up 44 percent," he said.

Mazda, held one-third by Ford Motor , is due to launch the remodeled Mazda6 sedan in the United States soon. The 290,000-unit target represents a 2 percent fall from 2007/08.

Mazda's shares were up 3.2 percent at 578 yen by early afternoon in Tokyo, outperforming a drop in most other automakers and a 2.5 percent decline in the benchmark Nikkei 225 Average.

Morris said sales incentives, which eat into profits, were also under control -- at $1,956 per car in June compared with the company's annual plan to average $2,100 -- helping Mazda hold up the residual value of its cars.

"Right now, even with the difficulties in the States, we're very confident of our plan and it seems to be working in difficult times," Morris said, adding that Mazda was seeing no impact on its sales from the tough business environment facing Ford.

Mazda's U.S. sales in June rose an adjusted 3.8 percent in an overall market that fell 8.5 percent.

Morris said Mazda was also on track to meet its 2008/09 European sales target of 360,000 vehicles, up 10 percent from last year, despite worries of a slowdown there. The forecast includes sales in the fast-growing Russian market.