Bermaz Motor, the distributor of Mazda vehicles in Malaysia since 2008, inked a joint venture (JV) agreement with Mazda Motor Corporation this morning at the new Mazda 4S Centre in Glenmarie.

The JV is for a manufacturing programme in Malaysia, which will see Mazda increase local assembly and manufacturing activities in our country. The Mazda 3 is already assembled at Inokom in Kedah, and the next model to undergo the CKD programme is the hot-selling CX-5, which was launched in May.

The SUV will also be put together at Inokom, and RM20 million has been invested into the programme, which will commence next year. A further RM20 million will be set aside for fixed general activity. First priority is to satisfy local demand, before exports will be considered.

Yuji Nakamine, director and senior managing executive officer at Mazda, described this development as “the second phase” of the carmaker’s relationship with Bermaz, which it is happy to work with. The distributor has done a good job marketing Mazda cars in Malaysia – from 991 units sold in 2008, Bermaz shifted 6,131 units in 2011, launching cars from the sporty MX-5 to the large CX-9 SUV in the process.

President of Mazda Malaysia, Shinji Sakatani (right) has ASEAN production experince from AAT Thailand

“Until today, our partner Bermaz Motor demonstrated great leadership to expand our dealer network and to raise our brand value based on our enduring relationship and mutual trust. The local production of the Mazda 3 beginning in 2011 is a good example. Sales volume has been growing steadfastly since then,” Nakamine said.

He added that setting up shop in Malaysia is part of Mazda’s “diversify manufacturing footprint” global strategy, which includes producing cars in Mexico and Russia. Making more cars outside of Japan will reduce foreign exchange impact, as a strong Yen eats into margins of Japanese companies from Mazda to Sony. Mazda’s Structural Reform Plan has set an ASEAN sales target of 150,000 units for the fiscal year 2015, and Malaysia plays an important role in that.

Mazda’s entry into Malaysia has seen the establishment of Mazda Malaysia Sdn Bhd, which will be responsible for both manufacturing and increasing localisation activities to support Bermaz Motor’s sales and marketing efforts. Mazda Motor Corp has 70% share in this JV, with the rest held by its local partner.

The man put in charge of Mazda Malaysia is Shinji Sakatani, who will act as the company’s president. Sakatani joined Mazda back in 1982 and built his career in production and logistics. He was assigned to Auto Alliance Thailand (AAT) in 1997 as GM of Production Control and Logistics, to start production of a JV pick-up truck with Ford (BT-50/Ranger). Sakatani, 55, then moved back to Japan to assume the role of deputy GM, Production Control and Logistics Division.