Mazda is heading up-scale in search of higher profits.

Mazda, looking to break out of a crowded market place, is planning a march up-scale. The Japanese automaker is hoping its new image as a premium automaker will eventually lead to more than 400,000 sales in the United States market.

Now an independent automaker, Mazda is looking for a way to boost profits in order to stay relevant in the global market place. A huge jump in volume isn't in the cards for the relatively small Japanese automaker, so the company has decided to focus on building a premium image.

"The question is: In the global market, what is the significance of a player with a mere 2 percent?" Mazda CEO Takashi Yamanouchi told Automotive News. "It's something we frequently discuss internally. We came to the conclusion that if we make ordinary cars for the mass market, there is no reason for us to exist."

Mazda's premium push started with its CX-5 compact crossover and will continue with the launch of its all-new Mazda6 sedan. Both of those vehicles feature Mazda's Kodo design language, up-market interiors and the automaker's fuel-efficient Skyactiv powetrain technology, but Mazda's brand shift will encompass more than just the product itself.

Mazda is also focusing on improved customer service at its dealerships, as well as fewer incentives. Mazda is banking on both of those factors driving up resale values of its vehicles.

"That's how we aim to be like a premium," Yamanouchi said. "Broadly speaking, it is not to rely on discounts but to have consumers appreciate the value of the product."

With its new plan in place, Mazda is calling for more than 400,000 U.S. sales by 2016. That figure represents a 43 percent improvement over the 280,000 vehicles Mazda is expected to sell in the U.S. during the fiscal year ending March 31.