DETROIT – Mazda Motor Corp. seems to be immune to the economic malaise affecting the auto industry.

Daniel Morris, senior managing executive officer-marketing, sales and customer service, says Mazda is expected to post a consolidated operating profit for the fiscal year, ending March 31, of $1.4 billion, a record for the Hiroshima, Japan-based auto maker.

Additionally, Mazda is on track to sell 1.36 million vehicles for the fiscal year, another record.

“Mazda’s product-led success continues,” Morris says at the North American International Auto Show here. “And we have a plan to sell 1.6 million vehicles in 2010.”

Much of Mazda’s success comes courtesy of the hot-selling Mazda3, which saw U.S. sales jump an impressive 27% in 2007, Morris says.

Despite the auto maker's sales growth, he says Mazda is mindful of its position as a smaller player in the global automotive arena.

“We weren’t staying true to the brand in the early 1990s, and that’s where we got lost,” he tells Ward's. “The ‘one-Mazda’ approach is to be small and nimble, (to) have a team that makes decisions together and has fun doing that. Our team understands the brand.”

At the show here, Mazda unveils the ’09 Mazda RX-8, as well as the Furai concept vehicle, which incorporates the auto maker’s Nagare (Japanese for “flow”) design language in an American Le Mans Series racecar.

Powered by a 450-hp rotary engine that runs on E100 ethanol fuel, the Furai “purposely blurs boundaries that have traditionally distinguished street cars from track cars,” says Franz von Holzhausen, North American director of design, adding that more Mazdas road race in the U.S. than any other brand.

“Historically, there has been a gap between single-purpose racecars and street-legal models, commonly called supercars, that emulate the real racers on the road,” he says. “Furai bridges that gap like no car has ever done before.”

A Mazda spokesman says the auto maker will release further details about the RX-8 later this year.

bpope@wardsauto.com