DETROIT – Mazda Motor Corp.’s MX-Micro Sport concept cross/utility vehicle shown at the North American International Auto Show already is slated for production, says Stephen Odell, senior managing executive officer.

The 4-cyl., 6-speed concept is based on the Mazda2’s architecture, and Odell says it will launch later this year in a “key global market,” but he declines to say where, noting only that further information will be trickled out gradually this year.

Mazda’s MX-Micro Sport concept.

The MX-Micro Sport “charts a clear course down the margin between the B (Mazda2) and C (Mazda3) segments,” says Odell of the vehicle, which will have a different name for the production version.

Odell says the concept CUV is very close to what the production model will look like, “but you’ll have to allow some artistic license,” he says, adding it likely will have a small engine (1.3L, 1.5L) and be priced below the Mazda3 if ever sold in North America.

The MX-Micro Sport features keyless entry, 17-in. wheels, 4-wheel disc brakes, balanced suspension and linear steering.

Odell, meanwhile, emphasizes Mazda’s increased focus on the U.S., with a new turbocharged Miata coming to market this fall and new ’05 Tribute CUV launching this spring. In all, seven new or updated models will be in Mazda’s North American dealerships this year.

“We will fix the U.S., and we’ll fix it fast,” promises Odell of Mazda’s effort to increase sales here. “We’ll do it with product,” he says, adding, “I’m surrounded by product on this stand, and there is nothing that is more than six months old. This is the greatest showroom lineup Mazda has ever had in North America.”

“Based on our strongest-ever showroom, I think (the current lineup) will prevent us from ever getting lost in the crowd again.”

MX-Micro Sport interior.

On the dealer side, Odell says Mazda is aiming for 50% dealer exclusivity in the U.S. by 2007, up from 22%. “Frankly, we know that not all of our dealers are focused exclusively on the Mazda business,” he says.

Although Mazda’s global sales are estimated to have risen in key markets 14% in 2003 over year prior to 1,070,500 units. U.S. sales remained flat, increasing an estimated 1% from 2002 to 262,400.

Nevertheless, the Japanese auto maker’s fiscal 2003 first-half operating profit (reported in November) jumped by 94% to ¥28.4 billion ($255 million) and net income doubled to ¥11.2 billion ($101 million).

cschweinsberg@primediabusiness.com