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Mazda touts speed of new plant

The assembly line at Mazda’s Hofu plant can produce a vehicle every 54 seconds.

Shizuo Kambayashi/Associated Press

The assembly line at Mazda’s Hofu plant can produce a vehicle every 54 seconds.

HOFU, Japan — Mazda, the longtime also-ran of Japanese automakers, says it came up with innovations in nearly every step of auto manufacturing for a super-efficient assembly line that rolls off vehicles at a stunning rate of one every 54 seconds.

The revamped Hofu plant in Yamaguchi Prefecture, southwestern Japan, shown to reporters Tuesday, underlines how Mazda Motor Corp. has defied skeptics who predicted the automaker’s demise after Ford Motor Co. ended a long partnership.

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The Hofu plant can barely keep up with demand. Its pace betters that of Toyota Motor Corp., the world’s top automaker, which can roll out a vehicle at paces varying from 57 seconds to 115 seconds.

The key to what Mazda calls its innovation in ‘‘monozukuri,’’ or ‘‘making things,’’ apparent at the Hofu plant, was using a common platform, the main structure on which a car is built, and common parts. Platform-sharing is a standard profit-boosting device in the auto industry, but is even more crucial for a smaller player such as Mazda, allowing it to create several distinct models from what in basic ways is the same car. After its partnership with Ford ended three years ago, Mazda needed a new approach.

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