DETROIT – Club racing on a team with other Mazda executives is one of the experiences Masahiro Moro, the company’s new CEO of North American Operations, will draw on as he hones the brand’s identity.

Considering the Japanese automaker sold its millionth Miata MX-5 roadster last April, focusing on driving enthusiasts seems part of Mazda’s DNA.

But it’s not easy to be an automaker, even in good times. New vehicle sales and production have been soaring to new heights in North America, but the rising tide has not lifted all boats.

Automakers with product mixes favoring cars rather than trucks and CUVs have seen sales and market share drop. And even though truck-rich automakers such as General Motors and Ford are raking in record profits, their stock prices are languishing because Wall Street thinks the auto boom has just about peaked.

The future looks especially daunting for small automakers such as Mazda that need to invest billions in new technology to meet tightening fuel-economy and emissions rules while simultaneously loading up vehicles with advanced driver assist and connectivity systems.

Moro recognizes the concerns as he unveils a lean, no-frills plan for long-term survival for the automaker, which has just 1.5 million global sales and is looking for incremental volume gains, not easy shortcuts to prosperity.

Part of the game plan follows the same path as many competitors, namely improving margins and residual values, rather than relentlessly chasing sales volume. Mazda is emphasizing retail sales over fleets and shifting its product mix to fewer low-profit cars and more CUVs.

That plan will be put to the test with Mazda’s handsome new CX-9 7-passenger CUV that hit dealer showrooms in late June. The vehicle scores well with reviewers, but the automaker’s small retail network and limited ability to pile on cash incentives places it at a disadvantage against giants such as Nissan and Toyota.

So far, initial CX-9 sales are promising. Transaction prices are up $10,000 compared with the outgoing model, a spokesman says.