The Mazda Motor Corporation, named after Ahura Mazda, the chief deity of the ancient Iranian Zoroastrian religion, is the 18th largest automaker in the world and is Japan’s fifth largest producer of passenger cars. The marque is known for its sports cars and sporty passenger vehicles. We take a look at the interesting history of Mazda.
When did Mazda start making cars?
What happened to Mazda during the Second World War?
Still under the name of Toyo Kogyo, Mazda produced weapons for the Japanese military, notably the series 30 through 35 Type 99 rifle.
However, shortly after the war, production of vehicles resumed.
When was the Mazda R360 produced?
The Mazda R360 was introduced in the 1960’s, shortly after the end of the Second World War. They were inspired by the NSU Ro 80, a sedan produced and sold in West Germany. To differentiate themselves to their Japanese counterparts they invested in developing the Wankel rotary engine.
They formed an alliance with NSU and began producing the Cosmo Sport in 1967. Mazda has since become the sole manufacturer of Wankel engines for the automotive market. This distinction led them to become increasingly popular, exporting vehicles around the world. This was further enhanced by the launch of the R100 and the RX Series.
Mazda Across the World
Mazda formally started operations in Canada in 1968 though Mazda’s were seen in Canada as early as 1959. In 1970 Mazda entered the American market under Mazda North American Operations. They were so successful they created the Mazda Rotary Pickup solely for American buyers, and to this day remain the only manufacturer to create a Wankel-powered pick-up truck.
The exports of rotary-powered cars was halted by the 1973 energy crisis. It was at this point that US buyers became more interested in fuel efficiency. This made way for the smaller city cars, and unfortunately, this does not include the rotary-powered Mazda’s.
When did Mazda partner with Ford Motor Company?
Reliance on the US market and being the least-efficient car maker in Japan in terms of production led Mazda, or Toyo Kogyo as it was still named, was on the brink of bankruptcy.
Saved by Sumitomo Bank, Mazda invested more in their piston engines and produced the Familia and the Capella.
They also started investing in sports cars, with the RX-7 in 1978, with the RX-8 following shortly after.
In 1979, Mazda partnered with Ford Motor Company. Ford acquired at 7% stake in 1979 and invested in a series of joint projects. This led the 1980s to becoming the most successful years yet for Mazda.
They finally adopted the name Mazda as their official name for the company in 1984 and saw considerable success with the 323 (GLC) and 626. The Familia platform was used for the Ford Laser and Ford Escort. During the 80’s Ford gained another 20% stake in the company.
Mazda in the 1990s
Mazda helped Ford develop the Explorer, which Mazda then sold as the Mazda Navajo. Interestingly, Mazda’s version didn’t sell very well at all but the Ford became the best-selling SUV in the US and stayed that way for over a decade.
Continuing with their fascination with alternative engine technology, Mazda introduced the Miller cycle engine in the Millenia sedan in 1995. This was the first use of the Miller engine in a car.
However, Mazda ran into financial difficulties in the 1990s, partly caused by the Asian financial crisis, which meant that Ford increased their stake to 33% ultimately controlling interest in Mazda. Henry Wallace was appointed President and set about steering Mazda into a new direction. Interestingly, Mazda managed to claim another distinction from its competitors, as the first Japanese car manufacturer to have a foreign-born head.
He designed a new marque, sped up development and improved efficiency in terms of production. In short, he turned Mazda around and laid the foundations for the future. This also resulted in a new plant in Thailand and the production of the international version of the Ford Ranger.
When did Ford Sell Mazda?
Mazda was going from strength to strength during the 2000s. And then the financial crisis of 2008 happened.
On November 18th 2008, Ford announced it was selling a 20% stake in Mazda, reducing its own stake to 13% and therefore surrendering control of the company. Mazda announced the following day that they were buying back 6.8% of shares from Ford and the rest would be acquired by the company’s business partners.
In 2010, Ford reduced their stake to 3% and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group became the largest shareholder.
That wasn’t the end of the Mazda/Ford relationship, however, as they continue to remain partners through joint ventures and they often exchange technological information.
2010 – Present Day
The following year, Mazda experienced their biggest annual loss in 11 years. They raised 150 billion yen in a share sale to replenish capital.
In 2015, Mazda formed a partnership with Toyota that would see Mazda supply Toyota with fuel-efficient SkyActiv technology in exchange for hydrogen fuel cell systems.