VIENNA – Mazda Motor Europe GmbH, the German subsidiary owned 100% by Mazda Motor Corp., will establish a national sales company responsible for Belgium and Luxembourg, with the start of operations scheduled for April.

The new company will take over control from Belgian-importer Beherman Auto S.A./N.V.

Beherman Auto was one of Mazda’s first independent distributors in Europe, selling Mazda vehicles in Belgium and Luxembourg since 1971. Since then, more than 400,000 units have been sold in the combined markets.

Through July, 2,846 Mazdas were delivered in Belgium, down 8.1% from like-2005, pushing the brand to the No.23 position in the market with a mere 0.79% share.

The latest move is part of Mazda’s strategy to set up its own national sales companies in established European markets. The auto maker launched new import companies in Russia and Ireland earlier this year, with Czech Republic and Slovakian operations to begin Oct. 1.

“Over the last six years, Mazda in Europe has progressively acquired control over distribution, to the extent that more than three-quarters of our annual sales volume is now made by wholly owned subsidiaries,” James Muir, president and CEO of Mazda Motor Europe, says in a statement.

“We intend to selectively increase this proportion of our volume in markets where it is logical and appropriate, and this move into Belgium and Luxembourg is a consequence of that strategic intent,” he says.

Beherman Auto will continue to run Mazda dealerships in Brussels, Antwerp and Liege, Belgium.