Increasingly, Mazda’s focus also will be outside Japan, where the auto maker finally is building a production base to mitigate the effects of exchange rates.

By the time the rollout is completed of all eight SkyActiv models, which it estimates will account for 80% of Mazda sales, Yamanouchi predicts the auto maker’s global production will grow to 1.7 million units, up from 1.2 million last year.

More importantly, half that total, 850,000 units, will be built in Thailand, China, Russia and Mexico. “All growth will be overseas,” says Yamanouchi, “and most will be in emerging markets. We are building resistance to exchange-rate fluctuations.”

Adds CLSA’s Richter: “Once Mazda opens its Mexican plant and starts churning out Mazda2s and (Mazda) 3s, the potential will finally be there for a virtual cycle to generate cash flow to help localize further.”

The $650 million facility is scheduled to come onstream early next year in Salamanca, Mexico. Planned capacity is 230,000 units annually, including 180,000 Mazdas plus 50,000 subcompacts for Toyota. Speculation is the Toyota car will be the next-generation Yaris.

Elsewhere, Mazda began CX-5 production at its joint venture with OJSC Sollers in Vladivostok, Russia, last autumn, while Changan Mazda Automobile and FAW are gearing up, respectively, to build the CX-5 and new Mazda6 in Nanjing and Changchun, China.

Mazda will begin automatic-transmission production in Thailand at a 8.5 billion baht ($290 million) plant in Chonburi province from late spring or early summer 2015. Planned capacity is 400,000 units annually.

Details have not yet been disclosed, but it’s almost certain the factory will make transmissions for the next-generation Mazda2 and Mazda3, both of which will be assembled 3 miles (5 km) south at AutoAlliance (Thailand), Mazda’s joint venture with Ford.

For Mazda, having an overseas manufacturing base dedicated to its brand is the ultimate nirvana. Efforts at piggybacking on Ford operations, particularly in North America and Europe, had mixed results. More times than not they were linked to Ford’s global product strategy and cycle plan, rather than Mazda’s.

Witness the Tribute CUV twin to the last-generation Ford Escape, built by Ford for Mazda and never meeting expectations. Or production of the Mazda2 assembled at Ford of Europe’s Valencia, Spain, plant; production stopped after just four years.

Other failure included the first-generation Mazda6, produced at a Ford-Mazda joint venture plant in Flat Rock, MI, and only meeting Mazda’s volume targets in two of 25 years before ending production last August.