Mazda Motor Corp., Japan's fourth biggest automaker, posted a 24 percent jump in profit for its fourth fiscal quarter and record annual earnings for the third straight year amid strong U.S. demand for a new sport utility vehicle and other models.
Mazda, which is 33.4 percent owned by Ford Motor Co., said Friday it had a group profit of 31.6 billion yen ($264 million) in the three months ended March 31, up from 25.4 billion yen the same period a year earlier.
Sales climbed 16 percent to 957.9 billion yen ($8 billion) for the quarter from 826.4 billion yen a year ago.
Mazda, known for the MX-5 Miata convertible and RX-8 sports car, has given Ford's fortunes a lift. Ford reported earlier this week its first-quarter loss narrowed to $282 million.
"We are very pleased that our business performance in fiscal year 2006 once again resulted in all-time record results," said Mazda President Hisakazu Imai.
Mazda, based in Hiroshima, is ramping up domestic production capacity, strengthening its car lineup, developing technology and taking more control of its dealer networks in North America.
For the fiscal year through March, Mazda's profit increased 11 percent to a record 73.7 billion yen ($616 million) from 66.7 billion yen a year earlier. Annual sales rose 11 percent to a record 3.25 trillion yen ($27 billion).
Demand was strong in the U.S. for the CX-7 and CX-9 sport utility vehicles, the Mazda5 family car and MX-5 Miata, the company said.
During fiscal 2006, Mazda sold 1.30 million vehicles globally, up from 1.28 million the previous year. It is expecting to sell 1.35 million vehicles around the world in the current fiscal year ending March 2008.
The latest results show how restructuring efforts that began several years ago have paid off. Mazda suffered a huge loss in fiscal 2001, when it was hit by costs to trim its work force in Japan. Mazda is projecting 85 billion yen ($711 million) profit for the fiscal year ending March 2008 on 3.32 trillion yen ($28 billion) in sales.
Mazda shares, which have lost about a fourth of their value from earlier this year, closed unchanged in Tokyo at 604 yen ($5).