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Mazda pulling out of minivans

A Mazda dealership in Hiroshima Prefecture.

HIROSHIMA, Japan -- Mazda Motor plans to end development and production of minivans, whose popularity has waned with the rise of sport utility vehicles, joining other midsize Japanese automakers narrowing their model lineups.

     The company will not roll out successors to its three current minivan models: the Premacy, known as the Mazda5 outside of Japan; the MPV, also known as the Mazda8; and the Biante.

     Domestic unit sales of these three models totaled about 10,600 last year, only a quarter of their most recent volume peak in 2010. The Hiroshima Prefecture-based company sees little to be gained from continuing to produce them, judging that big automakers have gained the upper hand in minivan popularity.

     Production of the MPV will end as soon as this year. When Mazda stops making the Premacy, it will also discontinue supplies of the vehicle to Nissan Motor on an original equipment manufacturer basis. Sales of the three models are expected to end by 2017.

      The company will channel freed-up resources into its SUVs, a vehicle type with greater global appeal. It plans to develop a seven-passenger model based on its midsize CX-5 that will go on sale as soon as 2018.

     Minivans enjoyed rock-solid demand as family cars in Japan in the late 1990s and early 2000s. But SUVs have eaten into their popularity as big-capacity autos by playing up design and the fun of driving.

     Midsize Japanese automakers lacking the depth of resources of say, Toyota Motor, are finding it harder to maintain extensive vehicle lineups amid rising competition.

     Mitsubishi Motors will end development of its Lancer sedan and freeze its program for the Pajero SUV at the current model. Instead, it is pushing into environmentally friendly vehicles, with plans to release a plug-in hybrid in fiscal 2017.

     Fuji Heavy Industries, the maker of Subaru cars, led the way in brand consolidation. It ended in-house production and development of minivehicles in 2012 and doubled down on SUVs, a market segment where it has found growth in North America and Japan. The company expects to sell 954,000 vehicles worldwide in the year ending March 31, the most ever.


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