When do you think you will be profitable again?
We should make a substantial operating profit in the second half of this year, though our result for the full year will be a loss. Next year we should be back on track. What do you expect operating conditions to be like in the short term? Not so easy. We think volumes will stay flat for the time being, and the Japanese yen will continue to be strong. But we have cash in hand, and the situation is under control.
Have you been hurt by the reduction in Ford’s Mazda stake from 33 to 13 per cent?
It was certainly a big change. But you need to bear in mind that Ford remains our biggest shareholder, and even today I’m assisted in my job by a finance director who is a former Ford vice-president. Our companies share platforms and manufacturing facilities in the US, Thailand and China, and we have no plans to change that. In future, if there are win-win opportunities then we will pursue them together.
Does this new situation give you more independence?
That is true in a legal sense. We do have fewer constraints. But we are still good friends with Ford, and there are no philosophical difficulties between our two firms.
What are Mazda’s longer-term objectives?
We are still studying what Mazda should be like in future, but broadly speaking we want to keep building our brand image, and doing things that are consistent with our brand DNA. There won’t be any large cars in our future, or any microcars. We won’t be chasing sales volume just for the sake of it. Quality, high residual values and customer satisfaction are all more important.
What is the future of ‘zoom-zoom’?
We talk about ‘sustainable zoom-zoom’ now. In 2011 we will launch a new generation of engines with a petrol model as efficient as today’s diesels, and a diesel as efficient as today’s petrol hybrids. By 2015, we want to improve our cars’ overall fuel consumption by 30 per cent. We also want to design our cars so people instantly want to drive them. Meanwhile, we will continue researching hydrogen power, especially as fuel for internal combustion engines. We will also keep going with hybrids and battery technology, so that if the market demands them we will be ready.
What about Mazda’s rotary engine?
We will build a new, more efficient rotary. We have already begun using one as power for a fleet of Mazda 5-based experimental hybrids in Japan, running on hydrogen. The Mazda rotary engine definitely has a future.