Mazda has “speedy” assembly line in Hofu plant image

The “mother plant” in Hofu is 31 years old but is now rolling off the line the new Mazda6 sedan at an industry-leading rate of one every 54 seconds.

Against industry observers that envisioned serious problems after the break-up of its long-running relationship with Ford Motor Co., Mazda has been dealing plenty of surprises on its own, including a solid profit for the most recent quarter.

Although in a recent line-up makeover that is led by the new Mazda6 sedan/wagon, Mazda shines on interesting facts as well – like the fact that the Japanese automaker went above and beyond in finding a way to ramp up the speed of its key assembly plant in Hofu to a pace even competitors like Toyota have to admire and envy.

In comparison to the 54 seconds needed for each Mazda6, Toyota Motor Corp., whose manufacturing system has long been considered an industry benchmark, takes anywhere from 57 to 115 seconds to roll out a new vehicle.

After some years of sluggish sales during the global automotive recession, the Japanese maker is quickly regaining ground. In the critical U.S. market, for example, demand was up 4.2% for the first seven months of 2013. On a global scale, Mazda is aiming for a nearly 40% increase in sales by the end of its fiscal year in March 2016, to 1.7 million, up from 1.23 million for the 2012 fiscal year that ended March 31st.

“We see this as one step towards further growth,” Mazda President Masamichi Kogai proclaimed as the 10 millionth vehicle, a 2014 Mazda6, reached the end of the Hofu line.

Mazda will open up a new factory in Mexico next year, the facility set to service the booming Latin American market and other export regions. But Hofu, which is known in the company as the “mother plant,” will remain the center of Mazda’s production base. And if the fifth-largest Japanese maker can meet its ambitious sales targets Hofu might soon match its previous peak, when it produced 500,000 vehicles in 2007.