Mazda output to be maxed

TOKYO: Mazda Motor Corp. said Wednesday that production at its Japan plants will return to full capacity next month as demand in Europe recovers on government stimulus measures.

Like other Japanese automakers, Mazda had suspended production at its plants on some days in recent months as auto demand plunged.

But "scrap incentives," as tax cuts or rebates, to encourage people to buy more ecological vehicles are kicking in around the world under governments economic stimulus measures, and they appear to be boosting auto demand in Europe, and may be gradually renewing demand in other markets, including Japan.

Starting in June, Mazda will have no more production suspensions, said Mazda spokesman Ken Haruki. In February and March, the Hiroshima-based automaker had closed its plants in Hiroshima and Hofu every Friday.

In April, the Hofu plant was back to a normal schedule, but production at the Hiroshima plant was suspended for two days during the month. This month, that was reduced to a day at the Hiroshima plant.

Initially, Mazda, Japan's fifth biggest automaker, which also makes the Miata roadster and RX-8 sports car, had planned to suspend production at Hiroshima for two days in June.

But demand for Mazda autos were increasing in Europe because of government incentives to boost consumer spending, although such increases weren't yet visible in Japan or the U.S. for Mazda, Haruki said.

In Germany, for instance, the government pays consumers 2,500 euros, or about $3,400, for scrapping a car that is at least nine years old to buy a new one. German sales of the Mazda 2 and MX-5 Miata gained a combined 45 percent to 3,077 in March from 2,127 in March the previous year. Demand is also growing in France and Great Britain, according to Mazda.

Other Japanese automakers are ending plant production stoppages, which had been carried out to adjust output to diving demand.

Toyota Motor Corp., the world's biggest automaker, which had halted production for 17 days from January to April at its 11 Japanese plants, including its four car assembly plants, has full production this month and next, spokeswoman Ririko Takeuchi said.

Honda Motor Co., Japan's No. 2 automaker, has returned to normal production from last month after halting production for five days each in February and March, the automaker said.