Mazda sales are up 22 percent this year, but the company's American operation is enduring acute pain. It is in the midst of a complete, five-month reorganization while trying to raise funds and shrink its workforce. In March, Mazda announced its intention to offer voluntary buyouts to its U.S. employees, after which it would assess the plan and then lay off other workers if needed. Of the firm's 701 local workers, 107 have accepted the voluntary buyout.

Having seen its North American year-over-year operating loss swell by more than 25 percent to $505 million from $397 million, every aspect of the company has come under review. Mazda has said it doesn't know if involuntary layoffs will be necessary yet, but CEO Takashi Yamanouchi does know this: "It's a must-win situation."