TOKYO -- Mazda Motor Corp. expects that better fuel economy and a more functional interior will boost sales of the redesigned Mazda5 minivan when it goes on sale in the United States in January.
The automaker aims to sell 20,000 to 30,000 a year in the United States, Thomas Pixton, senior managing executive officer, said at the vehicle's July 1 launch in Japan.
Mazda sold 18,488 Mazda5s in the United States last year, down 16 percent from 2008.
The redesigned version gets Mazda's smile-shaped grille and wave-inspired side styling. It remains almost 2 feet shorter in length than minivans from Chrysler Group and Honda Motor Co.
"We're looking for a sales increase in the new model because of increased environmental performance and a better interior," Pixton said. "Minivans have gotten bad press. But we're getting a generation of stylish minivans with dynamics much closer to sedans."
Mazda says the revamped Mazda5 will get up to 15 percent better fuel economy because of a direct-injection gasoline engine and the company's "i-stop" engine idle-stop technology. But it is still unclear whether the U.S. version will get the start-stop feature. The 2010 Mazda5 with automatic transmission is ranked by the EPA at 21 mpg city/27 highway.
A reworked interior can be adapted to multiple seating arrangements for up to seven people in three rows.
The Japanese version starts at ¥1.799 million, or about $20,305 at current exchange rates. A four-wheel-drive version will be released in Japan in August.
(Source: Automotive News)