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Mazda says aims to sell about 500,000 Mazda3 vehicles a year

TOKYO, Oct 9 (Reuters) - Mazda Motor Corp aims to sell around 500,000 redesigned Mazda3 compact cars a year around the world, Chief Executive Officer Masamichi Kogai said on Wednesday, setting the highest target ever for its best-selling model.

The Mazda3, also known as Axela in Japan, last year accounted for about 30 percent of Mazda's global sales of 1.25 million vehicles. About 40 percent of the Mazda3 vehicles were sold in North America, the company's biggest market.

"We need to achieve this target as we try to hit our annual vehicle sales of 1.7 million vehicles set in our mid-term plan," Managing Executive Officer Masahiro Moro, who oversees global sales, told reporters at a news conference where the company unveiled the Mazda3 for the home market.

The Mazda3 competes against popular vehicles in the C segment such as Volkswagen AG's Golf and Ford Motor Co's Focus.

Hiroshima-based Mazda fully introduced its fuel-efficient, profitable Skyactiv technology in the redesigned Mazda3. The vehicle went on sale in the United States in September and will go sale in Europe in this month and in Japan in November.

Mazda is offering a gas-electric hybrid model for the first time, using Toyota Motor Corp's hybrid technology, in addition to gasoline and diesel powertrains. The hybrid model will be offered only in Japan, Kogai said.

In Europe, Mazda aims to sell around 60,000 Mazda3 a year, and will offer both gasoline and diesel models, while in North America it is offering just the gasoline powertrain.