BRUSSELS - Mazda Motor Europe will move its headquarters from Brussels to Leverkusen, Germany, as part of a reorganization aimed at raising its European market share.
Mazda's top executive in Europe said the move will put the company closer to its customers.
In June Mazda Motor Europe GmbH will be established alongside Mazda Motor (Deutschland) GmbH.
The new subsidiary will have responsibility for the corporate planning, sales and marketing strategies and customer service. It will also administer parts handling and distribution throughout Europe.
Vehicle imports will continue through the port of Antwerp. The Mazda Motor Parts Centre (Europe) SA/NV will remain in Brussels.
Of the 640 company staff in Brussels, only 20 will be laid off. More key executives will be recruited in Europe.
By August the employees will be out of the current headquarters building on the A12 Brussels-Antwerp highway. Mazda owns the building and is seeking a lessee.
Though the headquarters operation will share a building with its German sales subsidiary, the two companies will operate independently.
Support functions will be centralized in the new headquarters to improve efficiency and reduce some operating costs.
These include product coverage, communications between markets, dealer network development, human resources and training. The company declined to put a figure on the projected savings.
'Germany was the logical choice for MME to relocate,' said Shigeharu Hiraiwa, president of Mazda Motor Europe, 'since it is Europe's biggest market, the home of Europe's strongest manufacturers, and Mazda's largest European market.
'We must get closer to the European markets by improving our knowledge and understanding. Germany is the obvious place to do this.
'From this strong base we can develop the rest of our European aspirations.'
Mazda's master plan for Europe has been set out for some time -a two percent share by the year 2000. Mazda, which is controlled by Ford, has 1.4 percent now.
Mazda sales in Europe reached 210,000 last year, an increase of nearly 10 percent.
Hiraiwa said new products will help achieve Mazda's goals.
Mazda will soon introduce a new MX-5, a direct-injection turbodiesel 626, and a European version of the Demio small car.
A Mazda Motor Corp. r&d center in Oberursel near Frankfurt is not directly affected by the reorganization. However, engineers working there are likely to benefit in indirect ways through closer proximity to headquarters.