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Politics

Mazda hopes Trump, Abe share 'common understanding' on trade

Japanese automaker downgrades its profit outlook due to a US sales decline

Mazda Executive Vice President Akira Marumoto speaks during a press conference in Tokyo on Feb. 2.

TOKYO -- A Mazda Motor executive said Thursday the Japanese automaker hopes U.S. President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reach an understanding on currency and other trade issues at their Feb. 10 summit in Washington.

Mazda on Thursday downgraded its net profit projection for the current fiscal year from 100 billion yen ($888.7 million) to 90 billion yen, citing weaker unit sales in the U.S. and Japan due to stronger competition. The company logged a 134.4 billion yen profit in fiscal 2015, which ended in March. To boost its U.S. numbers, Mazda said it will increase sales incentives for passenger cars, demand for which is declining, according to the carmaker.

Japanese automakers are bracing for the possible negative impact of the new U.S. president's protectionist policies. At the summit, bilateral trade will likely be a key topic of discussion.

Mazda Executive Vice President Akira Marumoto said at Thursday's quarterly earnings briefing that the company "expects progress on finding a common understanding [between Trump and Abe over trade issues] through the meeting." He also told reporters he expects the two leaders to talk about a "free and vigorous trade environment."

When asked about Trump's comments criticizing Japanese automobile trade practices, Marumoto said only, "We are watching the situation while analyzing the impact on our company and the auto industry."

As Mazda does not have factories in the U.S., all 305,783 vehicles it sold there in fiscal 2015 were imported. The company produced 193,000 cars in Mexico last year, of which 46,000 were shipped to the U.S. under the Mazda brand.

Marumoto would not comment on critical remarks about Japanese auto trade practices made by Ford Motor CEO Mark Fields, who served as Mazda president from 1999 to 2002.

Mazda's net profit for the nine months ended December was 79.9 billion yen, down 35.3% from the same period a year earlier. Its unit sales, however, hit a record high of 1.16 million cars, mainly due to stronger sales in China and Europe.

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