January 4, 2014 3:59 am JST

Mazda's Chinese sales stalled early but ended strong in 2013

KEN KUWAHARA, Nikkei staff writer

GUANGZHOU, China -- Mazda Motor's new-car sales volume in China edged down 0.2% last year to 186,690 units, finishing strong after slogging through a difficult first half, the company announced Friday.

     The carmaker struggled early on due to the lingering effects of September 2012's anti-Japanese protests over the disputed Senkaku Islands. Sales picked up later thanks to the mainstay Mazda6 sedan and the release of the new CX-5 SUV, which incorporates the firm's proprietary green Skyactiv technology.

     The CX-5's strong performance helped lift December sales 36.9% on the year to 23,654 vehicles.

     The company said the effects of China's air defense identification zone and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's recent visit to the controversial Yasukuni Shrine remain unclear. However, they do not currently appear to be having a significant impact.

     Mazda plans to go on the offensive this year. It will expand its sales network and roll out more locally made vehicles equipped with Skyactiv, including the Atenza sedan in the first half and the Mazda3 compact around midyear.